On May 18th 2022, new legislation to reform fire safety was announced. The government’s White Paper, a document which set out proposals for future legislation, seeks to introduce a system-wide plan to strengthen fire and rescue services across England. Since the catastrophic Grenfell Tower fire in 2018, which took 74 lives, the UK government has experienced immense public pressure to improve fire safety across the country.
The Grenfell disaster has led to the courts and local authorities taking a sterner view of Houses in Multiple Occupancy (HMO) landlords who flout fire safety regulations. This is backed by recent statistics showing that tenants living in an HMO are six times more likely to die in a house fire and this increases to 16 times more likely if the HMO is three or more floors high.
The new fire regulations:
The new legislation will now require building owners to consider the external walls in periodic fire risk assessments. Previously, the externals of the buildings fell out of scope of a fire risk assessment. These will be conducted against the newly created PAS 9980 standard, which uses a five-step assessment process to assess the level of risk posed by the construction of a building.
The proposed legislation also includes plans to introduce “modern workforce practices” to the fire and rescue service and could potentially see the establishment of a ‘college of fire and rescue’. Additionally, it includes detailed strategies to increase public engagement. A 10-week consultation is about to take place with the general public and relevant stakeholders being able to state their views before the reform programme is finalised. These Regulations will become law after a period of 40 days from 18 May subject to parliamentary approval. This will happen on 8 July 2022.
How does it affect building owners?
The new legislation has the ability to affect building owners in a variety of ways. The main affect is that fire services across the country will have more powers to take action against building owners that fail to remediate dangerous materials on the outside of their blocks.
LFB commissioner Andy Roe said: “We have already warned London’s building owners and managers that this was coming, and we will use these new powers if they aren’t meeting their legal responsibilities, so we are again reiterating our calls that they need to take urgent action to fix their buildings if there are serious failings”.
However, it’s not just London’s landlords that need to take notice. HMO owners across Lincolnshire and the UK need to ensure that their buildings are able to meet these heightened regulations, or risk large fines.
Fires in high-rise residential buildings in England are thankfully rare. However, the government aims to reform the safety system for residential properties giving a greater voice to residents, driving industry change and creating a national framework for increased oversight.
We specialise in completing robust fire risk assessments to all types of buildings and these include Houses in Multiple Occupancy HMO’s) up to 5 stories or 18 meters.
If you own a multiple occupancy building (HMO) and need help preparing for these new regulations, feel free to get in touch with us.