A Guide to the Fire Safety Act 2021
What is the Fire Safety Act 2021?
The Fire Safety Act 2021 was passed as law on the 29th of April 2021 and came into force in England and Wales on the 16th of May 2022. The Fire Safety Act 2021 signified an important milestone for fire and building safety and brought about a series of changes following the Grenfell Tower Tragedy in 2017.
In this article, we explore what it involves, the duties of ‘Responsible Persons’ and the potential repercussions if the act is breached.
The act extends the provisions of the Fire Safety Order 2005 and clarifies the responsibility of building owners (“Responsible Persons”) to manage and reduce fire risks. The changes apply to multi-occupied buildings and include external walls, cladding, balconies, individual flat entrance doors between domestic premises and the communal areas.
The Fire Safety Act 2021 will work in conjunction with the Building Safety Bill, which will bring in a number of measures to make buildings safe. This includes the formation of a Building Safety Regulator to oversee safety in buildings of all heights. A New Homes Obudsman scheme will also be introduced to streamline and deal with homeowners’ complaints against developers.
For leaseholders, the Government has announced that they will not need to bear any costs for replacing cladding in buildings above 18 metres and will provide funding. Buildings between 4 to 6 storeys will instead be offered a low interest and long-term loan.
How to comply with the Fire Safety Act: duties of Responsible Persons
The Responsible Person such as a landlord, must comply with the rules set out in the act, which include the following:
● Must ensure a Risk Assessment is completed consistently and apply the risk-based guidance (under Section 3 of the Act) to comply with their duties. The Government has introduced a Fire Risk Assessment Prioritisation Tool which assists a Responsible Person through a series of questions to develop a strategy to prioritise their building to review the Fire Risk Assessment. When carrying out the Risk Assessment you must identify any risks such as dangerous cladding or whether a fire door is compliant. Whilst the works are being carried out for remediation, it may be worth introducing temporary safety measures such as a Waking Watch.
● The entrance doors to individual flats that are open in communal areas must be fully compliant and maintained. The entrance doors must be able to withstand a fire for at least 30 minutes.
● The fire doors must be in good condition and have sufficient fire-rated materials. To make a fire door compliant you must have combined heat and cold smoke seals, and this must be installed by a competent person.
What will happen if the duties are breached?
It is an offence if a Responsible Persons fails to comply with the requirements of the Fire Safety Act 2021. This could lead to a limited fine, with the worst-case scenario being criminal prosecution.
In summary, the Fire Safety Act 2021 places strict obligations on building owners of multi-occupied properties to proactively identify potential issues and put in place measures to ensure the building is compliant with the current legislation. To make sure the building is compliant, you must conduct a risk assessment and make yourself familiar with the materials in the internal and external parts of the building to avoid liability.
The link to the Fire Risk Assessment Prioritisation Tool can be found here.
For more information on the guidance, please see the Government website.