New fire safety draft bills announced
- Date: Friday 30th October 2020
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Following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 and the resulting Grenfell Tower Inquiry, a number of steps are being taken regarding fire safety including new fire safety legislation. The following draft bills have been announced, with further primary and secondary legislation due to follow. A draft bill is published to enable consultation and scrutiny before the bill is introduced to Parliament.
Fire Safety Bill
The new bill will amend the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 to clarify that the responsible person or duty holder for multi-occupied, residential buildings must manage and reduce the risk of fire for the structure and external walls of the building, including cladding, balconies and windows and entrance doors to individual flats that open into common parts. This clarification will empower fire and rescue services to take enforcement action and hold building owners to account if they are not compliant.
The bill will provide a foundation for secondary legislation to take forward recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry phase one report. This report 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 externals 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 powers 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.
There will also be the introduction of a new Building Safety Regulator. To accompany the introduction of the bill, the Home Office is also announcing the publication of the summary of responses received to the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 (FSO) call for evidence.
The Building Safety Bill
Specifically for higher-risk residential buildings, this draft bill will ensure that there will always be someone responsible for keeping residents safe in high-rise buildings which is those 18 metres and above. They will also have to listen and respond to residents’ concerns and ensure their voices are heard – they will be called the ‘Accountable Person’.
Residents and leaseholders will have access to vital safety information about their building and new complaints handling requirements will be introduced to make sure effective action is taken where concerns are raised.
To oversee this and make sure that Accountable Persons are carrying out their duties properly, there will also be a new national regulator for building safety, within the Health and Safety Executive. It will ensure that high-rise buildings and the people who live in them are being kept safe and will have new powers to raise and enforce higher standards of safety and performance across all buildings. The regulator will appoint a panel of residents who will have a voice in the development of its work.
The draft bill will make sure that those responsible for the safety of residents are accountable for any mistakes and must put them right. It will fully establish the regulator that will enforce new rules and take strong actions against those who break them.
The regulator will have three main functions:
- To oversee the safety and standard of all buildings
- Directly assure the safety of higher-risk buildings
- Improve the competence of people responsible for managing and overseeing building work
It will also operate a new, more stringent set of rules for high-rise residential buildings. The new set of rules, contained in the draft bill, will apply when buildings are designed, constructed and then later occupied.
At each of these three stages, it will be clear who is responsible for managing the potential risks and what is required to move to the next stage enabling a ‘golden thread’ of vital information about the building to be gathered over its lifetime.
When residents move into a building that falls under the new set of rules, it will need to be registered with the Building Safety Regulator and apply for a Building Assurance Certificate. The Accountable Person will need to conduct and maintain a safety case risk assessment for the building and appoint a Building Safety Manager to oversee it day-to-day.
Building inspectors, who are responsible for signing buildings off as safe for people to live in, will also have to follow the new rules and must register with the regulator.
The draft bill will also give the government new powers to better regulate construction materials and products and ensure they are safe to use.
The government is committed to making sure that leaseholders won’t pay unaffordable costs for historic repairs to their buildings. A new ‘building safety charge’ will make it easy for leaseholders to see and know what they are being charged for when it comes to keeping their building safe. But, to make sure that these costs are affordable, powers have been included to limit the costs that can be recharged to leaseholders. The Homes Ombudsman will hold developers to account, including the ability to require developers to pay compensation.
Together, measures in the draft Building Safety Bill, Fire Safety Bill and Fire Safety Order consultation will improve safety standards for residents of all blocks of flats of all heights, with even more stringent approaches and oversight for buildings in scope.
Source: Ian Tagg