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

Chapter 7: The Law on Fire Safety

283. Chapter 7 gives an overview of the legislation in place in relation to Building Regulations, the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 and the Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982.

Building Regulations

284. Building Regulations apply to new building work, such as the erection of a new block of flats, extension of an existing block, buildings being converted to flats or alterations to the building. They impose requirements in respect of various fire safety measures including means of escape, structural fire precautions, smoke control, automatic fire suppression and facilities for the fire and rescue service.

285. It is important to understand the relevance of Building Regulations to alterations. Inappropriate and unauthorised alterations can undermine the measures provided to ensure safety of occupants from fire.

286. Any proposal to carry out alterations – such as to means of escape, automatic suppression, smoke control arrangements, structural alterations or alterations to facilities for the fire and rescue service – should be submitted to building standards verifiers to determine if approval is necessary (and, if so, to obtain approval of the proposals) under the Building Regulations.

287. Unapproved minor alterations and building works can often result in a contravention of the Building Regulations, which is an offence. The replacement of a self-closing, fire-resisting flat entrance door by a non-fire-resisting door or by a door that is not self-closing is a common contravention. This may place other residents at risk if a fire occurs in the flat in question.

288. There is no requirement under the building regulations to upgrade existing fire safety measures to current standards. However, existing non-compliances with the current Building Regulations must not be made any worse in the course of alterations or building works.

289. Powers exist under the Building (Scotland) Act 2003 to require unauthorised alterations to be rectified if the work breaches the building regulations.

290. Anyone in doubt about the application of building regulations should contact the local authority building standards.

Housing (Scotland) Acts

291. At the time of writing, the Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 requires that private rented housing must have satisfactory provision for detecting fires and for giving warning in the event of fire or suspected fire.

From 1 February 2022 an amendment to the statutory tolerable standard comes into force under section 86 of the Housing (Scotland) Act 1987, which requires that all dwellings, regardless of tenure, must have satisfactory provision for detecting fires and for giving warning in the event of fire or suspected fire. The standard requires:

  • One smoke alarm installed in the room most frequently used for general daytime living purposes
  • One smoke alarm in every circulation space on each storey, such as hallways and landings
  • One heat alarm installed in every kitchen

292. All alarms should be ceiling mounted and interlinked. They can be either mains-wired or have tamper-proof long-life lithium batteries. There is also a requirement for carbon monoxide detectors to be fitted where there is a carbon-fuelled appliance (such as boilers, fires (including open fires), heaters and stoves) or a flue.

293. The Housing (Scotland) Act 2006 also requires inspection and testing of electrical installations in private rented housing.

294. The Housing (Scotland) Act 2010 makes provision for a Scottish Social Housing Charter which sets out standards and outcomes that social landlords should aim to achieve when performing housing activities. The Charter includes a duty to ensure compliance with the Scottish Housing Quality Standard. The quality standard includes requirement for at least one smoke alarm in any social rented property and for thumb-turn locks to allow escape in event of fire. The Scottish Housing Regulator has power to intervene in relation to the Scottish Social Housing Charter. Again, the proposed changes will supersede this alarm provision standard.

Fire (Scotland) Act 2005

295. Part 3 of this Act is the legislation which applies to fire safety in non-domestic premises. However it does not generally apply to individual flats, or to the common areas of blocks of flats. However, the Act may apply to some parts of a high rise building, including those listed in paragraph 8.

296. The Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006 apply to non-domestic premises in tandem with Part 3 and also generally do not apply to individual flats, or to the common areas of blocks of flats. However, one provision of the regulations does apply to the common areas of high rise domestic buildings. This is the requirement to ensure that the common areas and any facilities, equipment and devices provided for the use by or protection of firefighters, are maintained in an efficient state, efficient working order and in good repair. This provision is imposed on the persons who have control of the common areas (dutyholders).

297. The SFRS may inspect premises to audit compliance with the specific provision. If the SFRS identifies a breach, it may notify the dutyholder(s) of steps to be taken to remedy the breach. If not resolved it may issue an enforcement notice.

298. Any person who fails to comply with an enforcement notice from the SFRS is guilty of an offence. A person on whom an enforcement notice is served has the right of appeal to the Court for 21 days after service of the notice. Alternatively, if the dutyholder and the SFRS cannot agree on the measures necessary, either party may refer the matter for a determination by the Chief Inspector of the Fire Service Inspectorate.

The Civic Government (Scotland) Act 1982

299. Section 93 of this Act requires occupiers to keep common property free of combustible substances and anything which might obstruct egress from and access to the property in the event of fire.

300. The SFRS has power to enter the common property to determine if the duty is being complied with, and if it is not and there is an immediate risk of fire likely to endanger life, to do anything necessary to remove that risk including seizing and retention of items. The SFRS can recover from occupiers the expense of removing items or substances from common property. The SFRS can issue notices requiring occupiers to remove or render safe items or substances in common property. Any person who fails to comply with a notice from the SFRS is guilty of an offence.



Back to top