Author
Rona Westgate

Rona Westgate

Senior professional support lawyer

Read More
Author
Rona Westgate

Rona Westgate

Senior professional support lawyer

Read More

17 March 2021

Under Construction - Q2 2021 – 1 of 5 Insights

Fire safety: where have we got to?

  • Briefing

There have been many headlines about the new £3.5bn fund and introduction of a developer tax and levy to help remove unsafe cladding announced in February, but what else can we expect in 2021?

The Fire Safety Bill

The Fire Safety Bill, currently nearing the end of its passage through Parliament, is expected to be enacted as the Fire Safety Act later this year. The Fire Safety Bill is intended to clarify the scope of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) by making it clear that the fire safety obligations of the Responsible Person (usually owners or managers) of multi-occupancy residential buildings extend to the structure and external walls (including balconies and windows) and individual flat entrance doors that open into common parts.  

The FSO as it stands applies to all non-domestic buildings, such as workplaces and commercial premises, but also to "the common areas of multi-occupied residential buildings". This has led to some uncertainty as to what was covered by the FSO which will be clarified once the Bill is enacted. The Bill will also make it much easier for Fire and Rescue Services to take enforcement action if owners and managers do not take these areas into account when carrying out their duties under the FSO.

The Fire Safety Bill also provides delegated powers to the Secretary of State to change the qualifying premises that fall within the scope of the FSO by secondary legislation. This is designed to enable government to respond quickly to developments in the design and construction of buildings in the future. This will also enable secondary legislation to be introduced to implement the recommendations of Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, such as obligations to inspect lifts regularly, ensure evacuation plans are in place, to be put in place. 

Separately to that, the consultation on proposals to strengthen the FSO itself closed in October 2020, and we may see the introduction of requirements for the Responsible Person to provide a UK current address, and for competency requirements for fire risk assessors.   

The Building Safety Bill

It is anticipated that Building Safety Bill will be introduced to Parliament this year once Government has considered the pre-legislative report produced by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee. The Committee called for much greater clarity and detail around the draft Bill including publication of a clear timetable for implementation. 

We've discussed the provisions of the draft Building Safety Bill before, but the proposed building safety charge for leaseholders set out in the draft Bill will generate further debate around issues of who pays the cost for remediation of historic safety defects in high-rise residential buildings. There are protections in the draft Bill for leaseholders to be informed of budgets and for these charges to paid to be retained in a designated account to be used for carrying out building safety works.  The draft Bill is also expected to contain provisions for landlords to take all reasonable steps to apply for any financial support available for the costs of carrying out required building safety measures, backed up with provisions to make it clear that where the funding is secured those costs cannot be recovered from leaseholders. 

The Bill is anticipated to be introduced to Parliament this year although there is no further information about this. We'll keep you posted with developments. 

To discuss the issues raised in this article in more detail, please reach out to a member of our Construction team.

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