Brisbane body corporate receives heavy fines for non-compliance with fire safety laws
Unit owners may have recently read media reports about the above subject.
Recently, a Brisbane Magistrates ordered a body corporate in Kangaroo Point to pay $21,000 plus costs after it pleaded guilty to 21 breaches of the Fire and Emergency Services Act and Building Fire Safety Regulation.
The fine comes on the back of a $30,000 penalty issued to a Townsville body corporate late last year for similar offences under the Act and Regulation.
Such prosecutions should never need to arise.
Compliance with QFES Directives
Ever since the Childers backpackers fire in 2000 in which 15 people died and the Sandgate boarding house fire in 2002 in which 3 people died the Queensland Fire & Emergency Services Dept.; has been increasing powers and it is prepared to use them. The following statements made by the QFES in publicizing the results of the prosecution are timely reminders and should be noted:
- “Building fire safety standards are in place to protect people in the event of an incident, so it is essential body corporates take their responsibilities seriously,”
- “QFES will always try and work with parties to resolve breaches, but there comes a point where enough is enough – particularly if an offender fails to cooperate.”
- “QFES has no hesitation prosecuting bodies corporate if that is what it takes to stop them failing to meet their responsibilities.”
The Magistrate perhaps said it all when he stated “the ever-present risk of fire required timely remedial action and that inattention or ignorance was not a mitigating factor.”
Acting proactively is the better way to go
At Capitol, we work with Owners and Committees with the aim of ensuring on-going compliance with all legislation around Fire Safety. We regularly include in AGM agendas the following motions to assist bodies corporate to consider their legal obligations:
- A motion to obtain a Fire Safety report;
- A motion regarding fire evacuation practices; and
- Motions for the regular inspection, servicing and maintenance of equipment and infrastructure.
At Capitol we regularly review the currency of fire reports, fire safety compliance and safety reports for all of our schemes. Our community relationship managers are trained to be able to explain to all committees as well as owners at general meetings the need for compliance as well as why it is considered that those reports are necessary.
However, Capitol does not get a vote on what reports are obtained or what work should be done. We can only provide information and our recommendations, based on what is best practice. Once a Fire Safety Report or indeed any other report is obtained, it is the responsibility of the body corporate to review and implement the requirements from those reports. Capitol will assist, as required by the body corporate, on instructions from the committee.
It is up to the body corporate to choose what is done and when. However, we can make the point, that it is undeniably better for the body corporate to comply with the legislation and do things in a timely manner rather than receive defect notices from QFES and have to comply with those within definite times frames imposed by a fire inspector.
The cost of compliance is preferable to paying a fine and then still having to pay for the cost of compliance. What is not mentioned in the QFES article but which is relevant to bodies corporate is:
- The fine would be an expense that is not budgeted for and in that event, a special levy on owners would be needed;
- Insurance cover, including office bearers cover does not cover fines such as that imposed; and
- Any building insurer that found out that one of its insured bodies corporate had been fined for non-compliance would probably then make its own enquiries around the risk of fire and either decline to renew or set the premium to take account of any perceived increased risk
- If a fire event occurred and it was evident that the fire safety systems were not maintained than this may leave the body corporate open to liability and the possibility of voiding their insurance for failing to comply with fire safety legislation resulting in body corporate – owners to cover the cost of rectification works.
Feel free to contact your community relationship manager at Capitol if at any time your body corporate has questions around fire compliance.