Fire Safety Act 21 – Landlords do you understand the changes and implications?

Fire Safety Act 21 – Landlords do you understand the changes and implications?


Earlier than expected, the government announced the commencement of the Fire Safety Act 2021 (Sections 1 and 3) from 16 May 2022 in England and Wales. The Act clarifies which parts of multi-occupied residential buildings apply under the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (FSO), and who’s responsible for maintaining fire safety for these parts. These changes are in line with the Building Safety Bill’s proposed regulations, aiming to overhaul the regulatory safety framework of buildings, from construction to maintenance and clarifying the responsibility of those involved in the management.


The FSO had applied to all non-domestic premises in England and Wales, including multi-occupied residential buildings such as blocks of flats. Responsibility to comply rested on the “responsible person” of the premises – which could be landlords that own the building or letting agents that have control over the building. The responsible person or duty holder under the FSO must “carry out an assessment of the fire risks to people on the premises or within its vicinity”.


The new Fire Safety Act 2021 amendment affects buildings containing more than one home – a house divided into just two flats is now included – and clarifies that the FSO applies to the structure and external walls. This includes windows, balconies, cladding, insulation and fixings and any common parts, as well as all doors between homes and common areas of the property. This last part is critical because landlords and sometimes tenants, change the front door to their apartment, often not realizing the fire risk implications by doing so.


Landlords and agents who are deemed the “responsible person” need to ensure their fire risk assessments are updated to take these new components into account and then regularly review the assessment, to take into account any changes. The responsible person must also ensure the “removal or reduction of fire hazards” and implement “reasonable measures” to make sure the residents, employees in the building, or visitors are safe, including for the building parts now highlighted in the Act.


The assessment should be undertaken by a “competent professional”, with new guidance available to help agents and landlords choose an appropriate assessor. The government recognizes that demand for these assessors will be high in the coming months as everyone updates their processes to stay compliant. It has therefore developed a new “Fire Risk Assessment Prioritisation Tool” to help prioritise the buildings deemed top priority. Whilst not mandatory, the use of this tool will give good guidance and help to ease the transition as building professionals become accustomed to the new rules.


Hopefully, these changes will provide the transparency and clearly defined responsibility for all parties concerned, that appears to have been lacking from the horrendous Grenfell disaster and subsequent enquiry debacle!