Insurance Issues

May, 19 2023 Published by Huronia Chapter - By Michele Farley

Who Is Responsible for Fire Safety in Condos? Townhouses VS. Apartments

From the CCI Huronia Spring 2023 Condo Buzz Newsletter

We are all responsible for our own life safety! But in the condo world there is required to be a defined line of responsibility for fire code compliance. This includes the checking and maintenance of life safety systems and fire safety planning. As a Property Manager, Director and/or Unit Owner it is important to know where the responsibility lies in your community.

There are three primary areas of fire safety responsibility 1) what each unit owner is responsible for 2) what the corporation is responsible for and 3) what responsibility is downloaded to your contractors. In principle this seems easily defined. In reality, implementation is not always as clear.

Fire Safety in Condo Townhouses

In townhouse communities this defined line can be even more complex, as the life safety equipment in the individual units is often not interconnected and can differ from unit to unit. There is also often confusion about what equipment is required to be in each unit and who is responsible for checking and maintaining it.

Each community is different. Some have shared entrances or underground garages with life safety systems or interconnected Smoke Alarms and CO Detectors throughout the units which are required to be checked and maintained by the corporation. Many do not have any shared systems, instead each unit is required to have Smoke Alarms and CO Detectors that are to be checked and maintained by the unit owner.

To determine the responsibilities on your corporation, start by identifying what life safety systems your community has, and defining who is responsible for what. This information can be found in your Fire Safety Plan or for communities without shared systems, the Fire Safety section of your governing documents. If you don’t have Fire Safety information outline or identified, it is a good idea to contact a professional who can help you identify and define your corporations’ specific needs.

Once you have identified and defined the areas of Fire Safety Responsibilities, communicate, communicate, communicate! Make sure unit owners know what life safety equipment they are required to have and how to maintain it. Include this information in your resident welcome package. Send out annual reminders with your AGM package and add reminders to your Newsletters.

Fire Safety in Condo Apartments

Like townhouses, each apartment community is different. The life safety systems in the building, applicable fire code requirements and delineation of responsibilities are dependent on several factors including the size and age of the building. To determine areas of Fire Safety Responsibilities, turn to your Fire Safety Plan.

Unlike townhouse communities, all buildings are required to have a Fire Safety Plan. This document is building specific and outlines the type, location and operation of your buildings fire and life safety systems, requirements for maintenance, staff training, fire drills and for communicating resident responsibilities, control of fire hazards, and emergency procedures to be followed in case of fire.

So, Who’s Responsible?

Ultimately, the responsibility is on the corporation to maintain Fire Code Compliance! To have rules, to communicate, to ensure regular inspections are completed and to maintain records.

In apartment condo communities, many responsibilities fall on the property manager and contractors, with few falling on the unit owners. In townhouse condo communities, many responsibilities fall on the unit owners, with the responsibilities of the property managers focused more on communication.

Whether you are an apartment or a townhouse condo community, evaluate your fire code compliance responsibilities, know your responsibilities as a corporation, know the responsibilities of the unit owners, communicate unit owners’ responsibilities to them clearly, and remind them frequently. Where applicable, train staff on their responsibilities and know what the contractors are responsible for and what they are not.

If you are not sure, ask for help! The Fire Code is complex, you are not experts, nor are you expected to be.

Michele Farley
FCS Fire Consulting Services Ltd.


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