On 23 January 2023, the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 (the "Regulations") came into force. The Regulations implement the majority of the recommendations made by the Phase 1 Report of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry and impose a range of duties on "responsible persons" of multi-occupied residential buildings in England. The Regulations have introduced significant changes for the fire safety requirements for multi-occupied residential buildings.

A responsible person is anyone who has control, or a degree of control, of a building. This can be an owner of a building, an employer or an occupier. It is therefore clear that more than one responsible person could exist for the same building, and it is important to ensure that parties are all aware of who it is that will have responsibility for ensuring that all relevant duties are complied with.

Relevant owners, occupiers and employers should take steps to ensure they are complying with the Regulations as soon as possible. The consequences of a failure to comply with the Regulations are an unlimited fine and/or imprisonment for up to two years for the responsible person.

The Regulations vary according to the height of the building:

For all multi-occupied residential buildings (defined as a building of two or more sets of domestic premises and common parts), the responsible person must provide residents with fire safety instructions and information about the importance of fire doors. This information must be updated on an annual basis.

For multi-occupied residential buildings of over 11 metres in height, the Regulations impose further requirements to carry out quarterly checks on communal fire doors and annual checks on flat entrance doors.

However, the most significant changes apply to high-rise residential buildings (those of at least 18 metres or seven storeys tall) where the Regulations mean that a responsible person must comply with the following:

  • Building plans and external wall systems: The responsible person must electronically share copies of floor and building plans, as well as information about the building's external wall system, with their local fire and rescue service ("FRS"). The building plan must be a single page and must identify the location of key firefighting equipment in the building.
  • Secure information box: The responsible person must store hard copies of the building's floor and orientation plans, as well as its name and contact details, in a secure information box which can be accessed by firefighters. If not already present, the secure information box must be installed and maintained in the building.
  • Wayfinding signage: Install wayfinding signage in all high-rise buildings which must be able to be visible in low light or smoky conditions.
  • Lifts and fire-fighting equipment: Ensure checks are carried out on lifts which are used by firefighters, and on essential pieces of firefighting equipment stored in the building. These checks must be carried out monthly, at a minimum. The responsible person must inform the FRS if a lift or piece of equipment is out of order for longer than 24 hours.

These are significant obligations but are part of the on-going Government strategy to increase the safety of residents in higher rise buildings.

For further information on matters relating to the Building Safety Act and Fire Safety in general please see our Building & Fire Safety Hub.

Contributors

Eric Johnstone

Legal Director

Emily O'Sullivan

Senior Solicitor

Louise Shiels

Head of Dispute Resolution and Risk & Partner