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Joshua
Joshua, Lawyer
Category: Property Law
Satisfied Customers: 25429
Experience:  LL.B (Hons), Higher Prof. Dip. Law & Practice
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I have a shop which I am converting to a ground floor flat

Resolved Question:

I have a shop which I am converting to a ground floor flat it has a door into my neighbours garden, which has been there for well over 50 years as it used to be all one property. I have been told that I can not use it as a fire escape and my neighbour could block it. In the past 4 years I have used it to maintain the rear of my property and I have replaced the door itself, having always asked my neighbour first. Do I have a right as such for using this door as a fire escape?
Submitted: 3 years ago.
Category: Property Law
Expert:  Joshua replied 3 years ago.

Joshua :

Hello and thank you for your question. I will be very pleased to assist you. I'm a practicing lawyer in England with over 10 years experience.

Joshua :

May I ask if you are aware of any right contained in the deeds to access the garden for the purposes of a fire escape route please?

Customer:

there are no mention of fire escape in the deeds I have

Joshua :

Thanks. If there are no formal rights then there will be no implied fire escape route over the garden unless you can show that a tight has been acquired through long use under the Prescriptions Act which requires 20 years of use to be established.

Joshua :

Accordingly the neighbour could potentially block up the escape unless in doing so he would block a window which has enjoyed light through it for 20 years or more.

Customer:

even though this door has been used for access for maintenance to the rear of my property?

Joshua :

In practice if there is a fire, a neighbour cannot physically prevent you using the garden to escape the building and it would be extraordinary if they were to try. Escape through a window or an inward opening door (assuming it has not been blocked) therefore could be considered.

Joshua :

If you can show that the door has been used for a period of 20 years or more for access then it is possible to establish a right of way for access by prescription. From what you say you are presently only able to show 4 years though - is that correct?

Customer:

yes thats right . So would they be able to block it?

Joshua :

If the door does not contain a window which has enjoyed light through it for 20 years or more, unfortunately the could if no right of way can be established by prescription or in the deeds. However as above they could not prevent escape by window for example

Customer:

so if it has been half glazed for over 20 years does this mean they could not block it, also I have 3 other windows facing the same garden all with frosted glass in. ppresumably they can not block those either?

Joshua :

Yes that is correct. The could still block the door from opening outwards but not the window so as to prevent light coming in if it has been there for 20 years or more.

Joshua :

Is there anything above I can clarify for you?

Customer:

yes is it a legal requirement for a fire escape in a flat to open outwards?

Joshua :

There is no requirement to have a dedicated fire escape in a residential flat. You are required to provide adequate means of escape from the flat in the event of fire. This can include windows as well as doors. There is no requirement that a fire escape opens outwards

Customer:

So can I used this to argue my case with building regulations?

Joshua :

Providing you can demonstrate that there are adequate means of escape from the flat this will be sufficient. There are usually relatively flexible approaches to providing adequate fire escape means and you can work with a building regulations officer and / or fire assessment officer in respect of your plans.

Customer:

thank you if I need more advise what do I do?

Joshua :

If I can assist any further please do not hesitate to revert to me. you can contact me using the below link:

Joshua :

http://www.justanswer.com/law/expert-joshua/

Joshua :

If you have no further questions for now I should be very grateful if you would kindly take a moment to rate my service to you today. Your feedback is important to me. If there is anything else I can help with though please reply back to me though.

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