Often in blocks of flats it is necessary safety requirement to require residents to use fire doors. Southwark had a fire in Lakanal House tower block in 2009 that spread from one of their flats in which six people died and twenty were injured, fire doors help prevent this from happening. These are doors that are thick so that they can resist a fire for at least 30 minutes.
What is unreasonable is to prevent leaseholders from making their own arrangements to install fire doors,
provided they meet the legal standards required. Apart from saving money this would also allow them greater choice over what the door looked like.
I recently asked the average cost charged to leaseholders by the Council for a fire door and what scope there was for them to exercise choice.
Kathleen Corbett, the Director of Finance & Resources and Joint Lead Director for Housing, replied:
“Each Fire Door costs on average about £1,000.
Leaseholders are able to install their own doors but they would need to provide the correct certification and to be able to show that the future maintenance costs for the door would not be higher than for those the Council installs. The leaseholder would also need to be aware that aware that even if we do give permission they will still have to contribute to the replacement of all the other doors as the service charge contribution is calculated as a % of the block cost. The lease does not give us the ability to spread the cost over a lesser number of leaseholders.”
I have asked for a breakdown of the £1,000 cost. B&Q charge £80 for a fire door. Their doors provide 30 minutes of fire resistance – the same standard as the fire doors supplied by the Council. The B&Q door looks perfectly smart to me.
Of course if someone installs the door themselves they would need to get it checked and certified – or get a builder with the proper qualifications to do the work for them. So there would be some extra cost involved.
But a 1,100 per cent mark up by the Council strikes me as on the high side…
It also seems extraordinary for a leaseholder to be charged in proportion for all the the doors in block – including the internal doors inside other flats as well as common parts – even if they make their own legally valid arrangements for their own flat.