So what is the Fire Safety Act 2021 (FSA)? Well, the Act is perhaps the shortest Act of Parliament ever seen, when printed it covers only 3 pages, but it packs a powerful punch.
So what does the FSA do for us – well if you are living in a “building containing two or more sets of domestic premises” (or “flats” to those of us not writing legislation) this is game changing. The intent of the Act is to start to address many of the recommendations in the first phase of the Grenfell Inquiry and to ensure that those living in flats or apartments, no matter how tall the building is, feel safe in their own homes. This is a great improvement but also such a dreadful admission, because clearly at the moment as it stands people do not feel safe.
The FSA amends the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (RRFSO) and brings buildings containing two or more sets of domestic premises into scope. For buildings of this nature the RRFSO will apply to the building’s structure, external walls and common parts. This includes in common parts, the separate entrance doors to each flat, doors or windows on external walls and “anything attached to the exterior of those walls” – whilst balconies are mentioned specifically everyone reading this will be thinking “and cladding”.
This means that regardless of ownership of the individual flats, the “responsible person” (the building owner, manager or operator) will need to carry out fire risk assessments and make sure that the building is safe. This will likely include the assessment of the integrity of front doors into individual flats, the windows, external cladding and internal common areas to ensure that the tragedy that unfolded in 2017 can’t occur again. Should responsible persons fail to be responsible, then enforcement can be taken by the Fire and Rescue Service. This could of course require access to individual flats in order to carry out a suitable fire risk assessment but the increased effort should yield greatly reduced risks.