It is fair to say that the Grenfell Tower disaster has had a major impact on the residents of all property in the UK. But this awareness of health and safety issues is starting to permeate other stakeholders.
Mortgage lenders are increasingly demanding to see fire and safety information for properties before agreeing to provide loans. However, while many are starting to deal with the cultural change the Hackitt Report called for, the need for change has yet to hit home.
Stepping up the pressure
It is only natural that other stakeholders start to take an active interest in fire safety. They’ve seen and continue to see extreme examples of what happens when things go wrong, as with Grenfell. Everyone is looking for assurances. Particularly residents and tenants who understandably want to ensure their family home or their office is not in any danger.
Indifference is everywhere
The independent review of building regulations and fire safety undertaken by Dame Judith Hackitt warned of indifference in the property sector. She claimed that many in the industry had been “gaming the system” for years by exploiting loopholes in existing regulation. Others may misunderstand their legal obligations or haven’t even taken the time to find out more by getting familiar with official guidance. In fact, Hackitt suggested that there had been a “race to the bottom”.
This isn’t true across the board. Some forward-thinking property management companies are creating and maintaining the recommended digital ‘golden thread’ of building information to improve transparency and ensure safety work is updated over time. They’re also looking at third-party risk assessments and completing safety cases.
Seeking out best practice
The good news is that these examples of best practice in the commercial property world are now permeating into the residential sector.
All good workplace safety practices need to apply to all types of property. It’s about protecting lives, improving systems and practices, maintaining a coherent information flow and establishing collaboration.
While the current difference is that commercial buildings are bound by strict and well-established fire and safety controls, legislation for residential fire and safety is soon to follow. Learning how the commercial sector is dealing with fire and life safety could therefore be used by the residential space to good effect.
Beyond Grenfell, property managers in the residential space will very soon have duties that are a direct response to a perceived track record of indifference, incompetence and ignorance. These duties have, for many years, been managed successfully within the commercial sector. Those in the residential sector that have already started to deal with these upcoming new requirements are best placed to drive differentiation and growth and to be the landlord or manager of choice.
For many, it’s now about a race to the top now rather than the bottom.
Rosalind Benjamin is chief executive of Ark Workplace Risk