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Building Warrant of Fitness? Who Needs it?
Owners of buildings which contain certain systems such as automatic doors, sprinkler systems and lifts are required to demonstrate annually that their buildings meet certain safety standards. The Building Act 2004 deals with both the construction of new buildings and the ongoing safety of new and existing buildings. Failure to comply with safety regulations can result in severe penalties.
What is a Building Warrant of Fitness?
A Building Warrant of Fitness (BWoF) is a building owner’s annual statement confirming that specified systems within a building have been inspected and maintained for the prior 12 months, in accordance with a compliance schedule. The BWoF must be displayed publicly and the original is held by the territorial authority.
The BWoF is issued after Independently Qualified Persons (IQP) complete their annual inspections. A certificate is issued for each of the specified systems, along with any recommendations for amending the compliance schedule, and these certificates must be attached to the BWoF provided to the territorial authority.
Which Systems Require Monitoring?
All buildings (except single residential dwellings) will be monitored if they have any of the following systems:
- Automatic sprinkler systems or other systems of automatic fire protection
- Automatic doors, which form part of any firewall, and which are designed to close and remain closed on an alarm of fire
- Emergency warning systems for fire or other dangers
- Emergency lighting systems
- Escape route pressurisation systems
- Riser mains for fire service use
- Any automatic back-flow preventer connected to a portable water supply
- Lifts, escalators or travellators or other similar systems
- Mechanical ventilation or air conditioning systems serving all or a major part of the building
- Any other mechanical, electrical, hydraulic or electronic system whose proper operation is necessary for compliance with the Building Code
- Building maintenance units providing access to the exterior and interior walls of buildings.
What is a Compliance Schedule?
A building that has any of the above systems will be issued a ‘Compliance Schedule’ by the territorial authority. The compliance schedule will address the following features:
- Means of escape from fire
- Safety barriers
- Means of access and facilities for use by persons with disabilities (to meet the requirements of the Disabled Persons Community Welfare Act 1975)
- Hand-held hose reels for firefighting
- Such signs as required by the building code or the Disabled Persons Community Welfare Act 1975.
What are the Consequences of Non-compliance?
If a Building Warrant of Fitness is not renewed on expiry the Council will issue warnings, followed by legal proceedings, and can shut a building down. It is also important for the insurance of a complex that the BWoF is kept up to date. An insurer may require confirmation that your BWoF is current as a condition of their cover.
Who is Liable if a Building Warrant of Fitness Lapses?
The Building Act generally involves strict liability, where proof of intention is not necessary. Liability can be placed on persons directly or indirectly responsible for the offence, which means that the agent and the owner may be held equally liable. Corporate liability can be placed on committees or building managers. There may be a liability issue unless the body corporate can prove that they took all reasonable steps to prevent the commission of the offence, and that it has taken all reasonable steps to remedy any effects of the act or omission giving rise to the offence.
What are the Advantages of Engaging an Independent BWoF Provider?
To simplify this process, many bodies corporate choose to engage an independent company that specialises in managing the Building Warrant of Fitness process, rather than trying to manage this process themselves.
There are a number of independent companies who specialise in managing the BWoF process for bodies corporate. Independent providers are often able to negotiate lower bulk costs for the services of IQP and other contractors. Specialist providers will also be able to advise on essential remedial work.
Without specialist knowledge, committees may be confused about the necessity of some, often very expensive, remedial work (including fire compliance). Engaging specialist companies ensures that someone with expert knowledge of what is and isn’t required is overseeing your building compliance regime.
For additional advice contact Crockers’ helpful Community Living experts on 09 968 3311 or email firstname.lastname@example.org