It is known that any given building has to have emergency procedures in place, to ensure that all who occupy the premises are prepared when an emergency should occur. But who is responsible to have these procedures implemented and planned? This article will clarify and outline certain duties and responsibilities of landlords and tenants, to ensure that they are prepared for an emergency. 

Landlord vs Tenants

In South Africa, a landlord is a person that rents out land, buildings or accommodations. They are responsible to provide a written lease agreement and must issue a receipt for every payment received. It is also the landlord’s duty to make sure that the property is in reasonable condition when a tenant moves in.

A tenant is classified as a person who occupies land or property rented from a landlord. The tenant has the responsibility to always ask for a lease agreement in writing and adhere to the terms made. They are also required to pay the rent as agreed and to ensure that they take care of the premises. 

In terms of safety requirements and emergency preparedness, both the tenant and landlord have their own responsibilities (when taking a look specifically at public spaces). The landlord is liable to make sure that all common or public areas have emergency evacuation plans up to date. This includes the exterior of the building such as providing compliant assembly points. It is also the landlord’s duty to make certain that each tenant has emergency procedures in place.

The tenant has the responsibility to have their own emergency evacuation plans up to date and in place specifically within the area that they are occupying. It is also required that they have their own emergency procedures established. This would include determining their emergency team and having a completed evacuation system up to date. 

With regards to emergency equipment, such as fire equipment and signage, is dependent on the lease agreement. Each lease agreement is determined and established by an arrangement between the landlord and tenant, therefor this document will specify which party is responsible for these aspects. 

Tenants’ Duty as Employers

Tenants must ensure that all staff members must be aware of the emergency evacuation plan, it is also the responsibility of the tenant/employer to remove and dispose of all old plans whenever an update has been made. This is done to avoid confusion when an emergency occurs. Action plans must be provided to all staff members to ensure that they precisely know what to do in an emergency. All staff members must be trained in the following: first aid or firefighting, emergency aid, emergency evacuation procedures and emergency management techniques. All staff members involved must be informed in writing of their particular duties and responsibilities in this regard.

It is required and stipulated by the by-laws that all emergency evacuation plans must be drilled at least twice a year, and all staff members must be included in the drills. The drill must be conducted after a 21-day calendar period after each employee has been notified in writing of the drill. 

Emergency Evacuation Plans – Landlord and Tenant Requirements

Emergency evacuation plans must be prepared for the premises in a comprehensive manner and ready for inspection and approval by the Service. The planning must include and constitute an internal fire protection committee from the internal staff and occupies to help with the planning. A fire protection programme must be established which includes regular and scheduled fire evacuation drills on the premises. 

Whenever the floor layout changes it is required that the evacuation plan is revised and updated. This includes when the Services require revision or updating but in any case at least every twelve months. These plans must also be displayed in a control room with the relevant documents at all times. Plans of the layout of the premises and escape routes must be put up permanently at all exits and strategic points on the premises.

The evacuation plan must be tested at a minimum of six-monthly intervals or when the plans have been revised and a record must be kept on file. A register with the following information must be on file; the date and time of the test conducted, the number of people taking place, the outcome of the test and the name along with the signature of the person supervising the test. 

Therefore, in summary, it is the duty of the tenant to ensure their emergency evacuation plan is completed for the premises (interior of the space that they use and occupy). The landlord is responsible to provide emergency evacuation plans for common or public areas and ensuring that the tenant has the required emergency procedures and plans as indicated. 

Our Services

Cairnmead Industrial Consultants conducts fire drills, evaluations, physical inspections of buildings and detailed reports. This includes meetings with Operational Management to determine special needs and conditions to compile an emergency preparedness report and procedures. We also provide evacuation diagrams that are compliant with the recent SANS requirements.  

Contact us to find out more:

Christof Lourens

CEO Cairnmead Industrial Consultants (Pty) Ltd

Tel: 012 346 5752 | Email:

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