Fire Safety Act 2021 - a new dawn for fire safety?


After much discussion and fierce debate regarding the adequacy of existing fire safety legislation, following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, the Fire Safety Bill finally received Royal Assent on 29 April 2021 and is now known as the Fire Safety Act 2021.

This Act amends the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 by clarifying the applicability of this Order to specific parts of residential buildings, most notably to external walls and anything attached thereon, with far reaching consequences for responsible persons (i.e. the duty holder) who must ensure compliance with the law.In summary, the Act:

  • Applies to all multi-occupied residential buildings (i.e. where there are “2 or more sets of domestic premises”)
  • Amends the Fire Safety Order 2005 to require all responsible persons to assess, manage and reduce the fire risks posed by the structure, external walls (including cladding, balconies and windows), and any common parts of buildings. The latter includes all doors between domestic premises
  • Allows the Fire Service to take enforcement action against responsible persons who fail to comply with the requirements of this Act
  • Enables the government to issue risk based guidance which can be referred to as proof that a responsible person has either complied or failed to comply with the requirements of the Act


Are these changes effective immediately?

No. Although the Bill received Royal Assent on 29 April, it has yet to come into force (i.e. have legal effect).In reality, the government are unlikely to identify a date when the Act will come into force until its risk based guidance has been finalised. As things stand, the public consultation process for this guidance, which is named PAS 9980: Fire risk appraisal and assessment of external wall construction and cladding of existing blocks of flats – Code of practice, is open until 20 May 2021.This will give recommendations and guidance on undertaking a risk assessment of the external wall construction of a multi‑occupied residential building. Its purpose is to help responsible person’s assess the risk to occupants, from a fire spreading externally over or within the walls of the building and to decide whether remediation work is necessary. It will be applicable where the risk is known, or suspected, to arise from the presence of combustible materials within the construction of an external wall.Following consultation, the final guidance is due to be published in September 2021. That being so, it is unlikely that the Fire Safety Act will be brought into force until the end of this year or the beginning of 2022. 

What are the risks for responsible persons?

It is already clear that the eventual introduction of the Fire Safety Act will place additional duties on responsible persons. In short, the remit of what must be considered as part of a fire risk assessment will be significantly extended, as well as the potential need for additional safety measures and remedial action to ensure compliance with the law.Therefore, once finalised, it is imperative that responsible persons familiarise themselves with the governments risk based guidance, so that they fully understand what is required of them. Only then will they be able to properly assess what action is necessary so that, if ever asked by the Fire Service, they can demonstrate compliance with the law.Any responsible person who fails to follow this guidance will inevitably face the very real prospect of enforcement action which, in the worst case scenario, could include a criminal prosecution and the prospect of an unlimited fine.Contact our Compliance & Regulatory team today should you have any queries about these latest developments, your existing duties under fire safety law, or in circumstances where you are the subject of any enforcement action by the Fire Service.


The content of this page is a summary of the law in force at the date of publication and is not exhaustive, nor does it contain definitive advice. Specialist legal advice should be sought in relation to any queries that may arise.

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