In response to the Grenfell Tower Inquiry’s recommendations, the Government introduced The Fire Safety Act 2021 to amend the Fire Safety Order 2005 (FSO). The new legislation addresses a potential legal ambiguity in FSO: whether the external walls and flat entrance doors of multi-occupancy residential buildings with two or more domestic premises should be included in the building’s fire risk assessment.
The Fire Safety Act 2021 makes it clear that the Responsible Person is responsible for the building’s structure (including flat entrance doors) and external walls (including windows, balconies, cladding, insulation and fixings) along with any common parts.
The concept of a Responsible Person has been around for some time; the FSO places several duties on them, so property managers need to be aware of these updated legal expectations. In the framework of the new regulations, the Responsible Person is anyone in charge of the safety of a regulated premises’ occupants. Typically, it’s the building owner. However, in residential buildings, this designation will include any other individual responsible for the common parts or exterior of the premises.
The Responsible Person will be required to update the fire risk assessment to include an examination of the building’s structure, external walls, and flat entrance doors. In some instances, they may update the fire risk assessment themselves. However, where the update requires an evaluation of materials that make up a building’s external wall system, the Responsible Person will need to call in a fire-risk assessor to undertake that assessment.
The Fire Safety Regulations came into force on January 23, 2023, under Article 24 of the Fire Safety Order. These regulations introduce new duties for Responsible Persons and apply to multi-occupancy residential buildings in England only. Anyone in charge of high-rise blocks will be legally obliged to provide the Fire and Rescue Services with information to help them plan and provide an effective operational response to an emergency.
Responsible Persons in multi-occupancy residential buildings, which are high-rise buildings, and those above 11 metres in height; will need to provide additional safety measures. They will be required to provide fire-safety instructions and guidance on the importance of fire doors to residents. The regulations will apply to existing buildings. the requirements for new buildings may be different.
In light of the new regulations, The Responsible Person should advise their Professional Indemnity (PI) insurers about the Fire Safety Act and new regulations to ensure that the additional activities and responsibilities are covered.
Since this work is potentially outside the scope of existing Responsible Person duties and contractual obligations, there is a potential for additional fees for this work based on hours spent.
At this stage, fee structures may not have been finalised. And while most PI policies will be on a Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) policy wording, the Responsible Person still needs to inform their broker or insurer of the additional work and potential income/exposure. In so doing, they will have the certainty that adequate cover is in place and that they are fully aware of any policy exclusions that may apply to the new activities or responsibilities.
If you’d like to discuss your insurance in relation to the new fire safety regulations, contact BHIB Insurance Services on 01604 630003, email firstname.lastname@example.org or visit the website www.bhibinsurance.co.uk