These Q&As are about fire audit and fire door compliance for QLD units.
Question: With reference to QFES Compliance in QLD strata buildings, if a property isn’t compliant and an assessor has stated that it’s non-compliant, what impact does that have on the building’s insurance?
Answer: If the non-compliance is known, it is a matter that should be disclosed to the insurer.
If the non-compliance is known, it is a matter that should be disclosed to the insurer when a policy is taken out as part of your duty of disclosure.
If the building is non-compliant, and you knew about the non-compliance, and that non-compliance causes or contributes to a claim, then that could result in the insurer denying a claim or reducing their liability.
If it’s not compliant and you didn’t know about the compliance issue, the insurer can decline the portion that relates to rectification of faulty workmanship.
Keep in mind that when it comes to compliance, one of the common things that must be considered is compliance at the time the property was built. For example, a property that was built in 1990 may still be compliant even if it does not comply with 2020 building codes because it was compliant at the time it was built. For this reason, it is important to consider compliance based on when the building was built.
This information is of a general nature only and neither represents nor is intended to be personal advice on any particular matter. Shandit Pty Ltd T/as Strata Insurance Solutions strongly suggests that no person should act specifically on the basis of the information in this document, but should obtain appropriate professional advice based on their own personal circumstances. Shandit Pty Ltd T/As Strata Insurance Solutions is a Corporate Authorised Representative (No. 404246) of Insurance Advisernet Australia AFSL No 240549, ABN 15 003 886 687.
This post appears in the November 2020 edition of the QLD Strata Magazine.
Question: Are you permitted to install a door video viewer in a fire rated apartment door?
Answer: The answer is no, you can not install anything to a fire door that has not been tested and is on the list of tested hardware that can be used.
This post appears in Strata News #370.
Question: The exit door to the fire escape staircase can no longer be opened from the outside. Is this against the law if our body corporate won’t have it repaired?
Our exit door to the fire escape staircase can no longer be opened from the outside. Is this against the law if our body corporate won’t have it repaired? What if someone is stuck inside and we can’t get back inside to rescue them?
Answer: Regulations require every fourth floor to have re entry if doors are locked from the stair side.
Regulations require every fourth floor to have re entry if doors are locked from the stair side.
Or a fail safe electric system hooked up to the fire panel and an intercom on each floor for re entry.
Hope this has answered your question, if not feel free to call our office on 0755 972 444
This post appears in Strata News #350.
Question: Do I have to participate in a scheduled Body Corporate fire drill for my unit complex whilst social distancing is in place due to COVID-19?
Answer: Common sense tells me that a fire drill should not take place until the current situation changes and it is safe to do so.
Peter Pedersen, Scanline Fire Doors: Common sense tells me that a fire drill should not take place until the current situation changes and it is safe to do so.
Chris Irons, Hynes Legal: I can’t comment on your obligations to participate in a fire drill as that is not body corporate legislation.
What I would say though, is that if a ‘common sense’ approach is good enough for the Prime Minister – and he’s been very clear that’s what everyone should be doing at the moment when obligations on many things are ambiguous – then it should be good enough for you in your situation. Common sense dictates that if we are meant to be avoiding situations which bring us into closer contact with others then we should probably be avoiding a fire drill.
You might like to direct a query to your body corporate in the first instance as to why they’d be wanting to hold a fire drill at the moment. Don’t discount the possibility that there might actually be some very good reasons for holding it.
This post appears in Strata News #335.
Question: Are all front doors for apartments required to be fire doors because they are the only exit? How do we know which doors need to comply with fire door regulations?
We have recently been told that the front doors to all units do not comply with the law for various reasons.
How do we know that there is a requirement for our front doors to be fire doors? It’s a three story block and all front doors lead outside to the stairwell.
Are all front doors for apartments required to be fire doors because they are the only exit? How do we know if they need to comply with fire door regs? We do not have the original plans for the property. We are located in QLD.
Answer: The owner should be given the opportunity to correct the issue first.
Generally, a 3 story walk-up consists of 6 units per stairwell.
Each of these units are built as a fire compartment in order to stop the spread of fire.
The self-closing fire rated door is fitted to gain access to each unit, and also to contain a fire from spreading.
All fire safety installations are required to be inspected and maintained as per MP6 and AS 1851.
If this building is in Brisbane or the Gold Coast we would be happy to inspect and advise.
This post appears in Strata News #322.
Question: A lot owner has installed a digital lock on their fire door. They are away and an audit has deemed the fire door non compliant. What should the Body Corporate do?
An owner in our building has installed a digital style access lock on their front door. It is for security not to use the unit for short term rental. He did not seek Body Corporate approval. This is a fire door.
The building manager asked him to remove the lock indicating that in an emergency they can’t get access as master keys won’t unlock the door.
The owner is regularly away overseas on short visits and has indicated that he wants to secure his apartment. He is always available by email or mobile.
Recently the entry fire doors were inspected by the fire engineer. The doors were deemed not to be fire safe and therefore not compliant. The Secretary of the body corporate has been asked to inform the owner that the doors are not compliant and the access locks would be removed.
If the locks are not compliant then this could impact on the owners insurance?
What should the secretary do? The request for action has come from the building manager.
Answer: The owner should be given the opportunity to correct the issue first.
The body corporate should write to the owner setting out:
- that the outside of the door is common property (assuming it is) and that approval is required for any improvements – which cannot be provided for fire safety reasons; and
- the fire safety issues; and
- requiring the owner to correct the lock.
The body corporate would then more than likely have rights to correct the lock and recover those costs but it should give the owner the opportunity to fix it first.
This post appears in Strata News #279.
E: [email protected]
Fire Audit Compliance
Q: Regarding an Annual Fire Safety Audit in Queensland of a 2 storey 6 unit complex, if nothing changes from one year to the next is there really a need or a requirement for a fire audit every year?
A: The Queensland development code MP 6.1 require inspections to fire safety installations be carried out as per these linked guidelines.
We have found very few buildings where nothing have changed in 12 months. The building may not be insured if fire safety inspections are not carried out as required.
Fire Door Compliance
Q: We have recently had an inspection on our fire doors and have been told they are non-compliant as no compliance tag is fitted. Is this correct?
A: Fire door tags are an integral part of the fire door, it shows the fire rating, manufacturer, applicant, certifier and year installed. If a fire door is missing the tag and is relatively new you may contact the company that installed the door and issued the certificate for recertification. If that fails you will have no other option other than replacing the door and sometimes the hardware.
Q: We have been told our fire doors are non-compliant as they have a deadbolt installed. Is this correct?
A: Deadbolts are not permitted on fire doors because they negate the function of the door to be self-latching. There are options, however, as some deadbolts can be removed, or replaced with certain approved hardware. That said, in many cases, the only way to ensure compliances is to have the door replaced and new approved hardware installed.
Q: We have been told that our fire doors have “excessive gaps” and don’t comply with the Australian standard. Is this true?
A: Yes. There are strict clearance limits on fire doors and if these gaps exceed the limits then the door is not compliant and should be replaced. In some cases, however, the use of compliant upgrade seals can bring doors up to the standard required by AS1851-2005.
Q: We recently received a report stating that our doors as “failed” due to requiring signage. We have green illuminated signage above the door. Why do we need both?
A: The Australian standard requires that all fire doors that lead into a fire isolated stairwell or corridor must have approved signage (FIRE DOOR DO NOT OBSTRUCT DO NOT KEEP OPEN) permanently fitted to the door. In addition to this, doors that form a final exit for a fire isolated stairwell or corridor must have signage on BOTH sides of the door.
Illuminated exit signs are only installed above the door on the egress side of the door.
Q: How often do our fire doors have to be checked?
A: The frequency of the required inspections is determined by the building classification in the BCA. In most cases for commercial and industrial buildings the frequency is every 6 months, and for residential buildings, the frequency is annual. You should check with Scanline Fire Doors to ensure that you are meeting your obligations in terms of your regular testing and maintenance of the fire doors.
Q: Our building has fire doors containing asbestos. Do I have to have them replaced?
A: Many building owners are conducting routine replacement of the old asbestos fire doors as part of their commitment to workplace health and safety. You may not necessarily have to replace the fire doors, providing they are in good condition and are still functioning as required by the Australian standards. If the doors are in disrepair, have faulty hardware or do not have the required compliance tag on the door, the only option is to have the doors replaced and have new hardware installed.
For a little more information about fire door compliance, you may wish to watch this short video
Please Note: For peace of mind always use a licensed company for your fire doors ( Check the Queensland Building and Construction Commission website if unsure )
This article has been republished with permission from the author and first appeared on the Scanline Fire Doors website.
Q&A Fire door compliance and keeping fire doors open – committee neglects fire safety responsibilities
Question: I’m concerned about fire door compliance and keeping fire doors kept open within our building. I raised my concerns in writing with the committee but nothing has changed. Is the committee neglecting their fire safety responsibilities?
I’d like to ask a question for your excellent Q&A section, please.
I own a lot in a QLD apartment building and am concerned about fire door compliance and that my committee is neglecting their responsibilities about fire safety. Apartments are accessed from an open lobby/atrium area and some occupants regularly have their front fire doors kept open with just their screen door locked, presumably to promote cross-breezes.
Upper-level apartments only have a single egress stair and these occupants need to pass by the open door to safely exit the building. In the case of a fire in this lot, upper-level occupants would have no means of safe egress. It also places the broader building at risk as the concept of a fire door is to slow/contain fire spread and this doesn’t work with the fire doors kept open. I expect there is legislation/standards about properly maintaining/operating fire doors, but I am unaware of exactly what they are.
I raised my concerns in writing with the committee and they instructed the resident manager to raise this with the occupants, but the issue continues to occur. In the meantime, the committee has sent out other correspondence (e.g. wishing all a Merry Christmas, reminding them to obey the pet by-laws) but no correspondence about the fire door issue.
What responsibility does the committee have to fire door compliance and to ensure the building remains safe? What steps should they be taking to ensure this happens? And what further steps could I be taking to encourage the committee to observe their responsibilities?
Answer: The first thing is to lay out very clearly for the committee what they think the body corporate needs to do and why.
The committee has ultimate responsibility here.
What should the owner do?
The first thing is to lay out very clearly for the committee what they think the body corporate needs to do and why. That should set out very clearly the statutory basis for those suggestions. If needs be, the owner could lawyer up – as that usually gets more attention.
If the committee fails to do something about it, the owner has quite a few options (in no particular order):-
- Stand for committee and take control of it from the inside;
- Write to all owners setting out their concerns;
- File an application for adjudication seeking that the body corporate comply with its statutory responsibilities;
- Sell their lot;
- Do nothing.
The armageddon options (which do depend on how strongly the owners feels about the issue) include:-
- Write to the body corporate’s insurer setting out their concerns (an issue is the insurer then disclaims the insurance);
- Ring QFES and file a complaint which leads to an investigation by them (and a fine or other order for works to be completed);
It is not that often there are that many choices!
This post appears in Strata News #183.
Q&A Fire doors failed inspection due to unauthorised security doors
Question: In our building, five fire doors in apartments failed due to unauthorised screen doors fitted to apartments. QFES has verbally advised us not to remove existing doors, but discourage others from being fitted. Where do we stand on fire door compliance and from an insurance point of view?
Our unit complex comprises 2 buildings with 25 units in each building. We recently had an inspection of our fire equipment and 5 fire doors in apartments failed because they had security screen doors fitted (without body corporate approval).
A QFES officer verbally advised our body corporate manager that the QFES would not require the security doors to be removed but that we, the body corporate committee, should encourage other owners not to install security doors over the fire doors.
The QFES officer declined to put his advice in writing and my concern as body corporate chairman is that, in the event of a fire, our building insurance cover may be voided.
Where do we stand on fire door compliance and from an insurance point of view? I would appreciate an opinion on my concern and also whether, if the insurance cover were voided, the committee could be held liable for failing to have the fire doors meet safety standards.
Answer: I am not sure of the legal position, but what it sounds like to me is that QFES knows this practice goes on and is in breach of the legislation, but doesn’t want to poke the bear of every body corporate in Queensland that has it as an issue.
To be honest, I am not sure of the legal position, but what it sounds like to me is that QFES knows this practice goes on and is in breach of the legislation, but doesn’t want to poke the bear of every body corporate in Queensland that has it as an issue.
To me, the answer is this:-
- It is a legal requirement or it is not. It is one or the other.
- The body corporate should get legal advice on that (sorry, yes that’s subjective, but it doesn’t necessarily need to be us as much as we are best placed to do it etc)
- When that legal advice is to hand the body corporate should act on its recommendations.
- If that means screens have to be removed, so be it. If not, then it doesn’t matter.
What I can assure you is that if there ever was a fire, and the body corporate was on notice of the alleged issue (which it is), the fingers may very well be pointed at the committee members for the failure to do something about it.
Another factor is the duty of utmost good faith when it comes to insurance and the statutory requirement to disclose known issues to the insurer. The next time the building’s insurance policy comes up for renewal, whoever is filling it out would have to be very careful about what boxes get ticked in response to questions about fire safety. And you can be certain in the post Lacrosse (in Melbourne) and Grenfell (in London) environment, fire safety in high rise buildings is a very sensitive issue.
If I was in the chairperson’s shoes I would do something about it or resign from the committee. There isn’t really much middle ground, as much as many would take the ostrich approach and keep their head in the sand.
This post appears in Strata News #183.
Q&A Who pays the cost of a replacement fire door for our unit?
Question: Who should pay for a replacement fire door for our apartment in Queensland? Is the lot owner responsible for fire door compliance?
I need to find out who is responsible for the replacement fire door at our apartment.
The door is:
- The main door to the tenants apartment.
- Is situated in a hallway that does not have security entrance.
- Was cracked from General Wear and Tear and was required to be replaced.
The body corporate is wanting us to pay for the replacement of the fire door. It took over 3 months for the door to be replaced. They have painted the door twice very poorly, and it still does not meet general cosmetic standards.
Should we really be footing the bill? Are we responsible for fire door compliance?
Answer: It comes down to whether the scheme is a building format plan (BFP) or standard format plan (SFP).
If it’s a building format plan (which it sounds like it might be) the body corporate must maintain in good condition ‘doors, windows and associated fittings situated in a boundary wall separating a lot from common property.’
Accordingly, if the door is situated in a boundary wall with common property on one side and the lot in the other, the body corporate will be responsible for its maintenance.
If the owner or occupier causes damage to the door, the body corporate will still need to carry out the necessary repair work but can then recover the costs of that work from the person who caused the damage.
This post appears in Strata News #170.
Have a question about fire compliance or something to add to the article? Leave a comment below.
- Combustible cladding laws in Queensland
- QLD: Q&A Car Park Storage. Furniture … tyres! I want this rubbish gone!
Looking for strata information concerning your state? For state-specific strata information, try here.