Fire Safety Order Bill to improve fire safety
16th April 2020
16th April 2020
On 19 March 2020, the proposed new Fire Safety Order Bill (“the Bill”) had its first reading in the House of Commons. The Bill will have a second reading, and there may be changes (potentially substantial) to the current version of the Bill, before it is passed as law. At present, no date has been announced for the second reading and, in view of current global events, a delay in the Bill progressing may be inevitable. However, according to the Government’s Minister for Safety James Brokenshire MP, the Bill, once passed as law, “will help to bring about meaningful change to improving building safety”.
The new changes
The Bill will amend the current law as set out in the Fire Safety Order 2005, with the aim of ensuring that fire risks are reduced and managed effectively. In particular, the Bill will clarify the uncertainty arising from the existing legislation in terms of whether the law applies to certain areas of multi-occupied residential buildings, such as the structure and cladding.
The Bill confirms for the first time that the “responsible person” must also manage and reduce the risk of fire in relation to:-
The structure and external walls of the building, including cladding, balconies and windows; and
Entrance doors to individual flats that open into common parts.
The Bill also provides a foundation for secondary legislation to take forward recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase One report, which stated that building owners and managers of high-rise and multi-occupied residential buildings should be responsible for a number of areas including:
regular inspections of lifts and the reporting of results to the local fire and rescue services;
ensuring evacuation plans are reviewed and regularly updated and personal evacuation plans are in place for residents whose ability to evacuate may be compromised;
ensuring fire safety instructions are provided to residents in a form that they can reasonably be expected to understand;
ensuring individual flat entrance doors, where the external walls of the building have unsafe cladding, comply with current standards.
The Bill will also give the Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government the power to amend the list of qualifying premises that fall within the scope of the Fire Safety Order by way of secondary legislation, enabling the government to respond quickly to developments in the design and construction of buildings.
The Fire and Rescue Services will be given powers to take enforcement action for non-compliance with the new rules.
The Bill provides much needed clarity over the responsibility for elements such as the structure and cladding, and the individual flat entrance doors of multi-occupied residential buildings. Those responsible for maintaining such buildings will, in time and with competent advice from specialists, need to review their processes and ensure that they are compliant with the increased obligations once the Bill is passed in law. That will, in turn, lead to increased costs to building owners (in most cases, such costs being passed on to residential leaseholders).
It goes without saying that the tragic events at Grenfell Tower in 2017 should never be repeated and both Government and industry should take all steps possible to ensure that fire safety is treated as paramount so residents can feel safe in their homes.
It is hoped that the Bill will go some way to achieving this, particularly when taken together with the proposed Building Safety Bill, which will provide clearer accountability and stronger duties on those responsible for high rise buildings, and the creation of a new Building Safety Regulator.
The Bill also follows the Government’s announcement of a £1 billion grant funding to tackle unsafe cladding on high-rise residential buildings in both the private and social sectors, in addition to the £600 million already made available for remediation of ACM cladding. Increased funding has also been made available to the Fire and Rescue Services, to increase inspection and enforcement powers and to build a strategic response to the Grenfell Public Inquiry’s findings.
We shall be keeping a close eye on developments as the Bill continues through the Parliamentary process and, in time, passed as law.
Should you have any queries in relation to this Legal Update, please contact Faye Didcote on 01435 897297 or Faye.Didcote@kdllaw.com.
This legal update is provided free of charge for information purposes only; it does not constitute legal advice and should not be relied on as such. No responsibility for the accuracy and/or correctness of the information and commentary set out in the article, or for any consequences of relying on it, is assumed or accepted by any member of KDL Law or by KDL Law as a whole.
If you have received this update in error or wish to unsubscribe from future updates then please email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Sign up to receive FREE regular Legal Updates by email