The new 2021 Fire Safety Act explained
The Fire Safety Act 2021 (Act) was made law on 29 April 2021 having been introduced to parliament in March 2020. This is an important piece of legislation with potentially significant ramifications for those organisations considered “Responsible Persons” under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the RRO). The Act is now in force and is another step towards a strengthened fire safety regime for multi-occupancy residential buildings.
What does the Fire Safety Act do?
The main focus of the Act is the amendment of the RRO to clarify that it will apply to the structure and external walls and any common parts (as well as all doors between the domestic premises and common parts) of any building containing two or more sets of domestic premises. The reference to external wall includes doors and windows in those walls as well as anything attached to the exterior of the walls, including cladding and balconies.
Such clarification was considered necessary as it was previously not clear whether the RRO covered the structure and external walls of buildings, meaning responsibility for potentially dangerous external wall systems and structural issues in multi-occupancy residential buildings was not clear.
The Act also amends the RRO to introduce what can be termed “risk-based compliance”. This effectively clarifies that where it is alleged a Responsible Person has contravened the RRO, proof of compliance with any applicable risk based guidance by that Responsible Person may be relied on as tending to establish that there has been no such contravention. The converse also applies insofar as failure to comply with applicable risk based guidance tends to establish there was such a contravention. This does not introduce a statutory defence but does provide a useful benchmark for the Responsible Person that, if complied with, will bring with it an element of assurance.
Building developers and landlords in particular need to be aware of this important piece of legislation. It is advisable to get a professional fire risk assessment company such as ourselves at London Fire Associates to carry out a risk based assessment of the building and if necessary rectifying any potential issues. We are happy to give advice on fire safety matters and act on your behalf in dealing with enforcement notices or prohibition notices that may have been issued by the fire authority.
There are many London fire risk assessment companies to choose from. Make sure you choose a reputable fire safety company with relevant fire safety qualifications, accreditations and experience.