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04 April 2022

Will the fire safety legislation amendments help or hinder office leasing?

Must office building owners or tenants obtain or update fire permits? Are non-structural compartments or changes in designation subject to permitting requirements? The unclear and unpredictable fire safety legislation has made the answer to these questions, and others, difficult.

Legislative changes introduced by Governmental Ordinance no. 80/2021 bring some clarity, but still leave room for improvement in terms of fire safety-related rights, obligations, and procedures.

New concept of preliminary fire scenario

The new concept of "preliminary fire scenario" seeks to facilitate the permitting process right from the outset. The fire endorsement needed for the building permit approval can now be obtained based on more simplified documentation.

Although long-awaited, this new concept cannot be put into practice for now, as the current methodology on drafting and issuing the relevant documents is yet to be updated.

Obligation to hire an expert

Companies that fall within the criteria set forth under the general fire safety regulation (yet to be defined) will have to employ at least one technical staff member in the field of fire safety. Alternatively, they can delegate certain required attributes for the position to one of their existing employees.

Long lasting question answered

The lease of "open space" or "shell and core" offices, offering tenants tailor-made solutions, has raised many issues in terms of whether and when the building's existing fire permit must be supplemented following performance of fit-out works.

The new rules shed light in this respect. From now on, almost any works will be subject to fire endorsement approval, from removable or temporary non-structural compartments to changes in designation of a premises (unless a building permit is required to this effect), and execution of specific fire installation works.

Although the newly introduced amendments were expected to ease the fire permitting process, the requirement to obtain fire permitting documents or negations for almost any type of works will most likely lead to delays in having a premises fully operational and lead to additional costs being accrued.

A ray of light

The new rules allow changes to a premises' designation, with no duty to obtain or update the fire permit if no building permit is required to implement the changes and if the new designation is compliant with fire safety regulations.

Extended deadline for obtaining fire permits

The amendments introduced to the fire safety legislation provide a new extension of the deadline by which those operating a premises without a fire permit, although they are legally obliged to have one, may obtain such permit by 31 December 2022 at the latest.

However, the above extension term only applies to those proving allocation of funds or execution of a design and construction contract for a building's compliance with the fire safety requirements.

What's next?

It remains to be seen if, when and how the necessary methodology and general regulation related to the newly introduced amendments will be able to fill in the remaining gaps in the fire safety regulatory framework.

This article was first published in the real estate report "Romania Market Overview 2021-2022", issued by Knight Frank.
authors: Oana Constantinescu, Adriana Stănculescu, Laura Buzatu-Teodorescu