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Do the changes to BS 5839 Part 6 in 2019 require immediate retrofitting of heat detectors in all kitchens in existing, unaltered buildings?

Guest Keith

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I live in a converted block of flats (7 leasehold flats, mostly tenanted) three storeys high with a longstanding, fully working and regularly, professionally maintained and certificated central fire alarm system interlinked to heat and smoke detectors. 

When I wrote to my local authority about a completely unrelated fire safety matter, they told me that we are legally obliged  to retrofit additional mains-powered, interlinked heat detectors in all 7 kitchens in the building owing to a change to BS 5839 Part 6 in 2019.   

I have since made enquiries and found it would cost an arm and a leg and the service charge fund is needed for other, more urgent things such as damp and movements of our external walls.  We cannot afford "nice to haves", at least not at present or in the foreseeable future.

I have read on other websites that this change to BS 5839 Part 6 is not retrospective: that it applies, aside from new builds, only to existing properties that are undergoing alteration. I have read on others that it applies both to new builds and existing properties, though they do not explain whether they mean “all existing properties regardless of whether they are undergoing current/future alteration”.

Does anyone know if there is a legal requirement to retro-fit these additional heat detectors in otherwise unaltered flats?


[For info: ours is a three-storey Victorian house converted in 1983/4 to 7 self-contained flats.  We are a section 257 HMO (5/7 of the flats tenanted and conversion before 1991).  Our system consists of:

  • Grade A: LD2 coverage in the common areas and a heat detector in each flat in the room/lobby opening  onto the escape route (interlinked)

  • Grade D: LD3 coverage in each flat (non-interlinked smoke alarm in the room/lobby opening onto the escape route) to protect the sleeping occupants]

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No, it is not retrospective, nor is a British Standard a legal requirement. A Fire Risk Assessment can suggest an upgrade is necessary but only where it can be clearly demonstrated that protection provided by the existing old standards is substantially inadequate for the risks present and only the new standard will adequately safeguard the safety of persons. I've helped advise clients before in similar situations, they took the matter to a First Tier Tribunal & they won and did not have to pay for the unnecessary works a local authority had carried out.

Local Authorities and Fire Services can be challenged and it is by no means unprecedented for them to loose appeals and determinations.

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