New law to legally bind tenants in UAE for fire safety

Rental contracts to spell out their responsibilities to keep their homes safe from fire

22:00 December 18, 2016
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Dubai: Soon, tenants in the UAE will face penalties for non-compliance of their responsibilities in ensuring fire safety in their buildings, Gulf News has learnt.

Tenancy contracts will have to spell out roles and responsibilities of tenants and make them accountable for ensuring fire safety in their apartments and villas. Violations and their penalties will also have to be specified to reduce fire accidents due to human errors and negligence, senior officials said on the sidelines of an international conference held last week in Dubai.

The move will follow the implementation of the updated version of the UAE’s Fire and Life Safety Code of Practices, which is expected to come into force from the beginning of 2017.

The code will have a new chapter on responsibilities of all stakeholders with regard to fire safety and will make them accountable for their roles, First Lt Tahir Hassan Al Taher, head of Inspection and Permitting at Dubai Civil Defence, said at the fourth International Conference on Quality Assurance for Sustainable Construction Materials held in Dubai last week.

The extended list of stakeholders will include developers, consultants, owners, tenants, facility management, school management and hospital management.

With human error being the main cause of fires in the UAE, he said, the code will put the onus on everyone, including tenants, for the first time, to keep their homes safe from fires and other safety hazards.

To spread awareness on this, rental contracts will have to specify safety rules and tenants’ roles and responsibilities in complying with them, Lt Col Jamal Ahmad Ebrahim, director of Preventive Safety Department at the General Directorate of Dubai Civil Defence, later told Gulf News.

Previously, he said, most of the fines for violations related to fire safety in residential buildings were only linked to the owners and their licences. But now authorities will look into the role of tenants as well.

“It is not just important to have a fire safety system. It is also important that people behave responsibly,” said Lt Col Ebrahim, who headed the team that drafted the updated Code.

He said Dubai Civil Defence has implemented a smart mechanism linking all buildings across the emirate to monitor their fire safety systems.

“We are monitoring the buildings 24x7. We are monitoring the elevators, control panels, fire pumps, water tanks, building gas system, etc. It’s a smart system and, if we find any fault, we call the building management and ask them to fix it. But what about the emergency exits, the storage conditions, other behavioural aspects and irresponsible practices?”

Tossing cigarette butts, barbecuing or smoking shisha in balconies or rooms are some of the dangerous practices that can cause fire hazards. It is not clear if the code will specify any new penalties for such violations.

Lt Col Ebrahim said the new code will stipulate regular maintenance of the fire safety system. Owners and building managements will be held responsible for this.

Pramod Challa, a senior engineer with Dubai Civil Defence, who handled the technical aspects of the code, said the code has updated specifications for cladding, thermal insulation and other materials.

“We touched up on four or five materials as the best options for cladding. But what matters is the standard. So, we have given the focus on standards and tests for them.”

With Dubai Municipality’s Dubai Central Laboratory slated to open a new fire testing lab to check the fire resistance of building materials, officials said they expect a boost to fire safety in buildings in the emirate.