The Fire Safety Act 2021 arose out of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire and relates to fire safety in buildings in England and Wales with two or more domestic residences. The act makes changes to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, also known as “the fire safety order”
The bill received royal assent on 29 April 2021 but has yet to pass into law at the time of writing this article (19 December 2021) pending the release of a technical guidance document from the Government.
We have highlighted three areas of the act which should simplify the process of achieving improved levels of fire safety.
1. Expansion of the provisions of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005
The Act amends the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 and extends the provisions of the FSO to additional parts of multi-occupancy residential buildings to include:
- The building’s structure,
- External walls including doors or windows in those walls, and anything attached to the exterior of those walls, e.g. balconies and cladding.
- all doors between the domestic premises and common parts.
2. Leaseholders’ front doors
The third point of the above expansion of the provisions of the FSO represents a significant shift in responsibility. Most residential leases will define the front doors to flats as part of the leaseholder’s “demise” making leaseholders entirely responsible for their front doors. The Fire safety bill 2021, will assign the responsibility of the fire safety compliance of leaseholder’s front doors to “the responsible person”.
3. Clarification of “The Responsible Person”
The Fire Safety Order defines the “responsible person” of a premises as the person who has control of the premises which in the context of most leasehold premises can include freeholders, leaseholders, site managers, managing agents, directors of resident management companies or right-to-manage companies. A very unsatisfactory situation.
The clarification provided under the Act, extending the provisions of the Fire Safety Order, means the Fire and Rescue Authorities can now better identify the Responsible Person for these parts. This will clear the path for enforcement action against and/or prosecution of any Responsible Person who fails to comply with the Fire Safety Order, which could lead to unlimited fines and/or criminal prosecutions.
Common Ground commentary
Generally, Common Ground welcomes the bill as it will simplify the process of enacting sound fire safety. In developments with a managing agent, it is generally assumed that the managing agent is “the responsible person”, however, in practice it has been difficult to implement a coherent fire safety plan without the ability to make changes to leaseholders’ front doors.
One change that Common Ground would like to see is the Government shifting the costs of fire compliance from leaseholders to property developers in cases where the property developer has not conformed to building standards. Unfortunately, this is all too common.
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