The Building Safety Bill and Fire Safety Act 2021 - Are You Prepared?

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22 June, 2021

Building Safety Bill

The government published its Building Safety Bill in July 2020 to respond to long-standing concerns surrounding fire safety, quality and competence, and to respond to recommendations from the Hackitt review which concluded that the whole system needed major reform.

The Bill's purpose is to put in place new and enhanced regulatory and accountability regimes for building safety and to ensure residents have a stronger voice in the system. It aims to introduce clearer standards and guidance and create a systemic change in culture and responsibility within the building industry.

The Bill introduces a wide range of new measures, including:

  • A new Building Safety Regulator with approval, enforcement and prosecutorial powers
  • Mandatory reporting of structural and fire safety occurrences
  • Creation of new roles and new general duties on duty-holders
  • Gateway points to manage safety and risk
  • A New Homes Ombudsman scheme
  • Building safety charges for recovery of costs.

The Building Safety Bill will apply to what are termed "high-risk buildings". Whilst it is not yet clear which buildings these will be, it is expected to be those of 18 metres or 6 storeys, or more, in height.

The Building Safety Bill was published in draft form last year but it was confirmed in the Queens' Speech on 11 May 2021 that it would now be brought forward. We will be tracking progression of the Bill, and any secondary legislation, and would recommend that housing providers do likewise in order to plan ahead in readiness for the new regime.

Fire Safety Act 2021

The Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 ("FSO") brought together different pieces of fire legislation. It applies to all non-domestic premises, including communal areas of residential buildings with multiple homes. The FSO designates those in control of premises as the responsible person for fire safety and they have a duty to undertake assessments and manage risks.

The Fire Safety Bill was introduced to amend the FSO, with an aim to make it clearer where responsibility for fire safety lies in buildings containing more than one home and to create a foundation for secondary legislation to take forward recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase one report.

The Bill received Royal Assent on 29 April 2021 and was enacted as an Act of Parliament - namely, the Fire Safety Act 2021.

Section 1 of the Act clarifies that the FSO applies to the following parts of buildings containing two or more sets of domestic premises:

(a) the building's structure and external walls and any common parts; and

(b) all doors between the domestic premises and common parts (so far as not falling within sub-paragraph (a)).

Reference to external walls includes doors or windows in those walls and anything attached to the exterior of those walls (including balconies).

These amendments to the FSO aim to increase enforcement action in these areas. Building owners or managers in multi-occupied residential buildings must include an assessment of risk related to fire and take precautions to reduce the risk of fire spreading in respect of these parts of the relevant premises. As a result, Fire and Rescue Authorities have the relevant enforcement powers to hold owners or managers to account.

Section 1 of the Act is not yet in force - it will come into force on a date determined by regulations made by the Secretary of State. This means building owners and managers have the opportunity to get systems and progresses in place.

Emily Jordan and Lachlan McLean, of Forbes' Housing Litigation Department, will be delivering a webinar delving more deeply into the measures proposed by the Building Safety Bill and what this means for landlords. If you would like to view the webinar following its release, please email Emily Jordan

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