Fire safety - existing high rise domestic buildings: practical guidance

This guidance provides practical fire safety advice on how to prevent fires and reduce the risks from fires in high rise domestic buildings.

This document is part of a collection

Annex 3 - Framework to Support the storage, removal and enforced prohibition of materials left in common areas of high rise domestic buildings that constitute a fire risk


This Framework is to support consistent, proportionate approaches to deal with material left in the common areas of high rise domestic buildings. The Framework is a guide to support improved fire safety and is not a requirement.

Areas should continue to operate existing agreed ways to deal with such material, where they are already in place and operating effectively.


This Framework has been produced following a recommendation from the post-Grenfell Ministerial Working Group (MWG) Review of the Fire Safety Regime to ensure the effective control and removal of combustible materials left in common areas.

Who is the Framework for?

This Framework is aimed at those responsible for fire safety in high rise domestic buildings. Typically this would be the building owner, which may include, or receive support from other groups and organisation such as: Local Authorities, housing associations, letting agents, private tenants, factors and private landlords.

How to use this Framework

The purpose of this Framework is to help to improve fire safety by stopping materials being left in common areas to reduce the chance of fires starting; and by keeping access and egress routes clear.

Those responsible for Fire Safety in high rise buildings are encouraged to use this Framework and work in partnership to develop a system to deal with materials left in common areas of high rise domestic buildings. It may be most useful to use this guidance on a building by building basis, as the approach needed through partnership working may differ from area to area.

The partner organisations should involve relevant organisations, including Scottish Fire and Rescue Service, Local Authorities, private landlords, factors and Housing Associations. This Framework allows for appropriate flexibility in approach, to address the particular circumstances of each organisation.


This Framework is intended for high rise domestic buildings, however the principles of partnership working could be applied in other building types. High rise domestic buildings are classed as buildings that have a floor above 18m in height, where the primary purpose is for living in.

Current Position on Combustibles in Common Areas

The current legal position is:

It shall be the duty of the occupier to keep the common property free of any combustible substances; and anything which might obstruct egress from and access to the property in the event of fire. (Civic Government (Scotland) Act (CGA) 1982, Section 93 (subsection 2))

A 'combustible substance' is:

"anything which is dangerously combustible in normal conditions and includes any container holding the combustible substance including any such container forming part of a motor vehicle but does not include anything forming part of any common property."

'Occupier' is defined in section 92 of the Act and, in relation to common property, means: "the occupier or occupiers of lands or premises having a right of access by, or a right in common to the common property".

The penalty for non-compliance by an occupier can be a fine not exceeding level 3 on the standard scale, a maximum of £1000.

Potential Contribution by Partner organisations

Partner organisations may be able to contribute practical support to operating the Framework, for example local authorities can aid in the uplift and storage of materials. It will be helpful to develop a Partnership Agreement with relevant organisations that sets out roles and parameters. An example template partnership agreement is included towards the end of this Annex.

The Scottish Fire and Rescue Service Enforcement Team can be contacted for general support and advice on fire safety issues. This may be particularly helpful where it is unclear whether materials are a fire risk. Contact details can be found on the SFRS contact your local fire safety enforcement office webpage.

For all aspects of this Framework, and particularly before agreeing individual partnership arrangements or processes, partners may wish to consider taking legal advice.

Framework regarding the storage, removal and enforced prohibition of materials left in common areas of high rise domestic buildings that constitute a fire risk

It is the occupiers that are responsible for keeping common areas clear of materials that could constitute a fire risk. They should be made aware that this is the position and encouraged to keep common areas clear at all times.

Below is a Framework for managing materials left in common areas.

1) Develop a partnership agreement on how best to manage items left in common areas with relevant groups, which may include Local Authorities, Police, and SFRS enforcement teams.

A template for a partnership agreement can be found on at the end of this Annex.

2) Those responsible for fire safety in the building need to be alerted to combustible material being left in a common area, or materials that will significantly affect access to or escape in the event of fire. The materials can be identified by a routine inspection by a caretaker or those responsible for the building; a routine operational assurance visit by SFRS; or by occupiers who notice any issues.

People living in high rise buildings need to be provided with information on how to raise their concerns and be given a clear contact number or email address for this purpose. It may be helpful to also ensure this information is available in a public place, such as an appropriate noticeboard.

3) Those responsible for the building should assess the material for fire risk as soon as possible.

The assessment should consider whether the:

  • area is common property
  • materials are combustible
  • materials could potentially block access to, or escape from, a flat in the event of fire

The assessment should be a straightforward process, giving consideration to the level of security provided to the block, the prevalence of fire-raising in the area and the nature of the items. High risk items are those which can be ignited with ease for example upholstered furniture, bags of rubbish, motorbikes or petrol lawnmowers. Lower risk items may include prams, broken household appliances or small wooden tables etc. This list is not exhaustive and consideration should be given to any items on a case by case basis.

Consideration should also be given to whether the items present an obstruction which would hinder access or egress in the event of fire, for example a restriction of width to less than 700mm or material stored in such a way as to clearly present the potential to collapse and thereby cause an obstruction. Chapter 4 of Scottish Government Guidance 'Fire safety in existing high rise domestic buildings' which provides advice on fire prevention and housekeeping, may also be of use.

4) Response to varying degrees of risk

High Risk - Follow the process set out any partnership agreement you have developed, to ensure high risk materials are appropriately dealt with as soon as possible.

Low Risk - If the material is assessed as low risk, it may be most appropriate to try and identify the owner and ask them, in person or by writing, to remove the material in a reasonable time frame.

If an owner cannot be identified, one course of action is to place a notice on the material requesting it be moved in a reasonable timeframe. This notice should give information on action to be taken if the material if it is not removed (namely, it may be uplifted and stored). An example template notice can be found at the end of this Annex.

5) Action taken

High Risk – Via your partnership agreement the item should have been uplifted and stored/disposed of as appropriate

Low Risk – If after a set period the low risk item hasn't been collected or removed by the owner, follow the process set out any partnership agreement you have developed, to ensure these materials are appropriately dealt with.

6) Next Steps

You may wish to circulate letters/Notices to all occupiers reminding them of the importance of keeping the common areas clear.

Consideration should be given as to how best to recover any costs incurred through any partnership agreements you develop.

[Name of partnership]



Back to top