The Fire Safety Act 2021 - What Do Landlords and Letting Agents Need to Know?
The UK Parliament has passed the Fire Safety Act 2021, which aims to amend and clarify certain sections of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005. One important aspect of the Act is aimed at pinpointing who is responsible for fire safety in a building that “contains two or more sets of domestic premises.” This is termed to be the ‘responsible person’, and that will usually be the landlord or building owner.
The Act follows recommendations made in the Hackitt Report, which was commissioned in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. Dame Hackitt concluded that “there is a need for a radical rethink of the whole [regulatory] system and how it works.” This led to the Building Safety Bill and Fire Safety Act 2021.
What Does the Fire Safety Act 2021 Do?
In addition to identifying who is responsible for safety, the Fire Safety Act 2021 also specifies the areas in which they are tasked to manage the risks of fire. These are:
● The building’s structure
● All external walls, including doors, windows and anything attached to the walls, including balconies
● All common parts of the building
● All doors in between domestic dwellings and common parts of the building
These areas should be risk assessed annually by the responsible person, which should ensure there is a keyless exit, emergency lighting, fire alarms, extinguishers and other measures available in common areas.
Fire and rescue services are empowered by the Act to take action against the responsible person if they do not comply with the fire safety legislation.
Issues With the Fire Safety Act 2021
Some industry experts have warned that the increased and more rigorous fire safety checks now delegated to the building owner will lead to increased charges to leaseholders. This could be in the form of larger service charges or additional costs for tasks such as removing cladding.
Initially, the idea was to insert a clause that would mean leaseholders did not face the burden of remediation work, however, this was abandoned as no consensus could be agreed upon.
There could also be additional charges for inspections to ensure that compartmentation in dwellings is adequate to prevent the spread of fire. With many leaseholders being buy-to-let landlords, this is another cost to bear in addition to the current safety checks.
Further guidance will be released later this year, which will hopefully clear up some of the concerns relating to the Act and its implementation.
Despite the potential problems, this Act is aimed at making life safer for the population. As such, it is important that landlords and other responsible persons act now to ensure they are ready for when the Act comes into force. There will be additional regulations included in time, so early preparation will help prevent a rush to comply before the deadline, whenever that might be.
Building Safety Bill 2021-22
The Fire Safety Act comes in at around the same time as the Building Safety Bill. Amongst other elements, the Bill paves the way for a Building Safety Regulator, new sprinkler requirements and steps for improving the safety of higher risk buildings.
Property safety checks form part of our outsourced property management offering. If you want to escape the hassle of dealing with scheduling checks, then let us take it off your hands. Talk to us today about how we can help.