Your guide to the Fire Safety Act 2021 (England and Wales)

17 August 2021

Landlords and letting agents should consider updating their fire risk assessments in advance of the Fire Safety Act 2021 coming into force, to ensure they are compliant for all parts outlined in the new legislation for multi-occupied, residential buildings.

The Fire Safety Act 2021 became law in April 2021 and clarifies which "parts of multi-occupied residential buildings" apply under the the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO) - and therefore who's responsible for maintaining fire safety for these parts. The legislation is expected to come into force by the end of 2021.

The FSO currently applies to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales, including multi-occupied residential buildings such as blocks of flats. Responsibility to comply rests on the premises' "responsible person" - which could be landlords that own the building or letting agents that have control over the premises. The responsible person or duty holder under the FSO must "carry out an assessment of the fire risks to people on the premises or within its vicinity".

What's new?

The new legislation affects buildings containing more than one home, and clarifies that the FSO applies to the structure and external walls including windows, balconies, cladding, insulation and fixings and any common parts, as well as all doors between homes and common areas.

This means that relevant landlords and agents need to ensure the "removal or reduction of fire hazards" and implement "reasonable measures" to make sure the residents, employees in the building, or visitors are safe, including for the building parts now highlighted in the Act.

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The amendment notes that fire and rescue authorities will be able to enforce compliance and prosecute or "serve alteration of prohibition notices" if people are put at risk of death or injury from fire through lack of compliance.

The changes outlined in this Act are in line with the Building Safety Bill's proposed regulations, presented to Parliament in July 2021 and pending Royal Assent, aiming to overhaul the regulatory safety framework of buildings, from construction to maintenance.

What's next?

Although the law has not yet come into force, it is expected to do so in 2021. At that time, the government will issue full guidance on what those responsible must consider when conducting fire risk assessments - including ensuring that contractors take into account the parts of the premises highlighted in the Act - to ensure compliance.

Agents and landlords considered responsible for these parts under the Act should consider updating their risk assessments in advance of the change coming into effect, to ensure compliance from day one.

Please note this is intended as a guide only and does not constitute legal advice. Read more at gov.uk.

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