March 23, 2017

How can we stop Peverel spending £20,000 on fire alarm upgrade?

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Can readers share their experiences to help this gentleman?

(Prompts to use commercial services may be removed)

Hello Sebastian,

Thank you for your prompt reply to my email about Homepine House in Kent. I would like to understand more about their problems as we may have a similar problem looming here.

I live in XXX. Peverel has conducted a fire alarm assessment and has concluded that XXX needs a fire alarm upgrade.

At the same time it is recommended that each and every flat, all 27 of them, should have a smoke alarm hard-wired into the careline security system.

The total cost was quoted at over £20,000.

We have established that the hardwiring is not compulsory.

Because funds are very low, the fire alarm installation may not take place this year, which gives us time to debate the issue.

Our corridors do have a fire alarm system, but I do not know the official standard, although the building was erected in the late 1980’s.

Our fear of unnecessary expenditure by Peverel has prompted some of us to query Peverel’s intentions, so we have investigated the requirements of a “sheltered housing” building, seeking guidance from our local fire service.

(Are we a sheltered housing complex?)

They suggested reading the LACORS document.

Last year we were inspired by the Homepine problem as reported in Carlex. Now I am not so confident.

The following is my opinion only:
The Fire Service prefer a stay-put policy.
The Fire Service prefer the minimum alarms in corridors, not the maximum.
Our alarm system is working and we have automatic vent openers as well, so why change?

Carlex says

Homepine House was based a protest on quite a skimpy Fire Brigade assessment.

But the hard wired alarms may be challengable.

I just doubt a court is going to take any risks on this: especially after the death at Gibson Court.

Where you might be on stronger ground is contesting the tender itself and insisting on other companies to be considered.

Is there any will to spend any money contesting this: ie by employing your own surveyor?

Comments

  1. Every leaseholder has the right to refuse workmen entry into their flat to install these alarms. If sufficient leaseholders agree not to let workmen into their flat then Peverel may not think the installation is viable?

    However Peverel will try every trick in the book to install these as it is a big profit earner for them. Bribery and corruption is the norm for Peverel to get their way in these matters.

  2. Paul Joseph says:

    Many leases, maybe most, contain clauses about the entitlement of the landlord or his agents to have access to his property to inspect it or carry out work that is within his remit as freeholder. This surely cannot be reasonably withheld, just as Peverel cannot reasonably replace a system that doesn’t reasonably need replacing. A better approach would be to get a professional opinion on that. Even better would be to acquire at least RTM and, ideally, the freehold.

  3. Paul,

    Peverel may hyave a right of access if the work is legally necessary (e.g. because of appropriate legislation). In this case there is no such right and leaseholders have the right to refuse entry to workmen for this puirpose. See your lease.

    It will also pay to get the local MP involved and also the local Press. Peverel do not like this and as previously stated they will do everything they can think of to do this work, e.g. lie, bribe the Fire Brigade to come along and tell the leaseholders how essential the work is. The facts remain that the work is only necessary to line Peverel’s profits and certainly NOT because of the present fire regulations.

    My advice is resist this at all costs. Why would anyone want to line Peverel’s pockets further?

  4. The Gibson court fire was nothing to do with the fire alarms and smoke detectors. These worked well. It was the fire stopping (fire curtains) in the roof space that failed. This allowed the fire to spread quickly.

    Firstly, I would ask for a copy of the fire risk assessment. Old fire alarm systems are not necessarily bad systems. I know of one that is 30 years old, is regularly maintained, and is still going strong. Peripheral parts may need replacing i.e. smoke detectors, but not necessarily the whole system. There may be an issue with spare parts on an older system, in which case this should be mentioned in the report in order to justify the replacement. However, main components are generally quite reliable.

    Secondly, does the risk assessment look at the fire alarm in isolation? As per Gibson Court, it is no good having a state of the art fire alarm system if there is inadequate fire containment in the building. Indeed, I would say this aspect of fire safety is more important than a fire alarm. Interestingly, most non-retirement blocks do not have a fire alarm system and rely on containment.

    Thirdly, there is no requirement to have a hard wired smoke detector in the flats. A battery operated on would suffice. However, a hard wired is a good feature to have if it can be afforded. It worked in the Gibson Court fire and careline were alerted.

    Fourthly, challenge the cost. £20,000 seems a lot of money to me for 27 apartments. Is Cirrus (Apello) doing the work? If so I would be very suspicious!

    • Cirrus Communication and or Appello will no doubt tender for the work and one of them will probably be the cheapest?

      The replacement of Warden Call/Fire Systems has been happening since early 2000 as a matter of course as it gives continues work to a Peverel Group Company, the fact that it may still be working is irrelevant and not taken into account.

      The Price Fixing Scandal of 2005/09 showed the level that Peverel Management Services, now trading as Peverel Retirement was prepared to go too, to maintain a steady work load.

      Ask for the Report from Peverel Retirement requiring the Fire System to be Risk Assessed, and then the Report stating why it is required.

      I doubt you will ever see either Report?

      • XXXX Says:

        The total cost was quoted at over £20,000.

        We have established that the hardwiring is not compulsory.

        Because funds are very low, the fire alarm installation may not take place this year, which gives us time to debate the issue.

        chas says:

        We were informed in 2006 that our WCS was OBSOLETE?

        This has been a ploy in previous years as they usually give a year or two lead up allowing for the Contingency Fund to be increased more than usual, so there will be the funds available. It allows Peverel Retirement to programme up to two years in advance for Cirrus/Appello to have the contracts ready and planned for?

        XXXX continued:

        Our corridors do have a fire alarm system, but I do not know the official standard, although the building was erected in the late 1980’s.

        Chas Says:

        When exactly was the development built?

        XXXX Says:

        Our fear of unnecessary expenditure by Peverel has prompted some of us to query Peverel’s intentions, so we have investigated the requirements of a “sheltered housing” building, seeking guidance from our local fire service.

        (Are we a sheltered housing complex?)

        Chas Says:

        Check the lease as it should state early in the lease, the designation of your development.

  5. A Reviewer says:

    Hi

    The only requirement for hard wired smoke detectors is in RENTED properties. And I support that – tenants NEVER change the batteries or test the alarm. I recommend a hard wired alarm with ten year battery – it gets charged up by the alarm itself – and thats what powers the alarm when there is a fire and the mains fails.

    Happy Days

  6. It is unlikely that they are smoke detectors and are instead optical and or heat sensors( and why no wire free..). As the real risk for most blocks is fire from within a home, it is a judgement call in meeting the basic requirements and the standard required at the time of constructions and why if anything has changed ( say a materiel alteration) that makes it a legal requirements or the risk that needs to be managed has changed.

    Assuming that nothing has changed it will be hard to justify the need for such work which may in turn be an improvement which your lease may not allow, as it is only desirable or best practice.

    As a group at the earliest stage you should club together and get your own report from a fire risk assessor to investigate and challenge the need for such works, or if they agree, the scope and specification of the works and cost.

  7. The simplest way to nip this in the bud is to request / require that Peverel obtain one or more quotes from your own nominated contractor(s) – and at the same time you can ask those contractor(s) to comment on the need for the work and the suitability of the specification which has been proposed.

    This works in two ways:

    It would be foolish of Peverel to refuse to facilitate the alternative quotes, since this is one of the customer services promises which they have made – to listen and to demonstrate value-for-money. Any refusal would naturally raise suspicions that they are allowing the possibility of another scam. If the requirement is flawed or Peverel’s quote is unreasonable you will find that out and can then act to prevent their proposals. They would be in breach of RICS, industry and their own standards and any court or tribunal would probably find Peverel at fault.

    If the ball park cost is £20,000 over 27 properties this is clearly above the legal S20 Consultation threshold, and in law Peverel cannot proceed without following stringent procedures. That means including your nominated contractor(s) in the tendering process, and they are obliged to demonstrate that they have asked for and taken into account everyone’s opinions and observations. They don’t have to accept the cheapest quote, but they do have to justify their actions if there is strong opinion that the proposed work is not required or significantly over-priced. You would most likely succeed in proceedings to prevent the work, or you would probably recover the charges from Peverel (the landlord) if they refused to stop.

    Once Peverel know you are on to them, by requiring independent quotes and comments from your nominated contractor(s), they will realise the game is up – in the past there have been examples where this has led to them withdrawing the proposals or suddenly coming up with a much more efficient solution.

    You are ideally placed to make a public issue of this – Laura Sandys is known to be sympathetic to leaseholders being ripped off, and I’m sure the Mail would consider it very newsworthy indeed to hear what Nigel Farage and Al Murray have to say on the subject.

  8. Mark my comments have been removed I am not sure why?

  9. Three comments I placed today are not available why.

    • My comment of yesterday never even got posted.

      Please Carlex if you disapprove of my postings be good enough to say why – you have a valid email address.

  10. Admin,
    It seems that we have a problem???

  11. There seems a lot of hysteria around peverel/cirrus, here’s my advice regarding fire and warden call systems

    If your WCS is obsolete, check with the manufacturer and he will advise, if your unsure what make it is ask your cirrus engineer, he will tell you.

    Hard wired smoke alarms in each property although not compulsory are genuinely very good for early fire detection. I have seen these save a young family in a large block of flats who had a similar system.

    A comment I have seen saying the fire service take a bribe of peverel is ridiculous. You may have gripes but comeone really people??

    Like a lot of companies 99.99% of the staff are genuine and honest