The new Act amends previous legislation in England
The Fire Safety Act 2021 has been introduced to amend the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the FSO) which is main piece of fire safety legislation in England and Wales.
The Fire Safety Act is intended to make clear how fire safety obligations apply to multi-occupied residential buildings and the Act received Royal Assent on April 29, 2021.
The expectation was that the Act would come into force towards the end of 2021 or the beginning of 2022.
The Fire Safety Bill was proposed in March 2020 following an Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety by Dame Judith Hackitt which was in part driven by the Grenfell Tower Fire.
Fire Safety duties arising from the Act extend the provisions of the FSO to the following parts of multi-occupied residential buildings:
- The building’s structure
- External walls and any common parts
- The external walls include doors or windows in those walls
- Anything attached to the exterior of those walls, for example balconies and cladding
- All doors between the domestic premises and common parts
As a result, the Responsible Person for the building will need to include these parts of the building within the fire risk assessment for the buildings. The duty to take general fire precautions will apply to them. Fire and rescue services will also gain enforcement powers in relation to these aspects of the building.
- Requirement to have detailed and robust policy documentation on how the duties will be managed
- Budget considerations for additional workload around inspections and administration
- Potential that it will result in upwards pressure on rents to cover the additional costs as a result of compliance
- Are third-party suppliers able to give full reassurance (that is, FRA’s which, where there isn’t clarity, will result in advice to research further causing additional workload and risk)
- Risk of non-compliance could adversely affect reputation
- Risk of unlet buildings and prosecution for non-compliance
- Supporting residents to understand their responsibilities (The Building Safety Bill includes resident engagement as a legal requirement for buildings over 18m)
- Having an understanding of the personal and potential building-wide consequences of breaching responsibilities
Who is the responsible person?
Under Article 3 of the FSO, the Responsible Person of a premise (either a building or any part of it) is the person who has control of the premises (“the Responsible Person”), which may include building owners, leaseholders or managers.
The Responsible Person will need to understand what their obligations are in respect of the FSO and the Fire Safety Bill and have competence to be able to carry out these obligations. Obligations are set out as duties in Part 2 of the FSO.
What are the penalties for failing to comply?
Failure to comply with the FSO or the Fire Safety Act will allow action to be taken leading to unlimited fines and/or criminal prosecutions.
Will there be further amendments to the Act?
The Fire Safety Act 2021 will also give ministers the power to change the types of premises to which fire safety legislation applies, and to issue risk-based guidance about how to comply with fire safety legislation.
Does the Act apply across the whole of the UK?
There is no change to the law in Scotland, where fire safety legislation does not apply to the common parts of residential buildings.