The new laws extend the duties of the ‘Responsible Person’ in relation to buildings in England that contain two or more residential units. The accommodation in the building can be for the general public, such as blocks of flats (but not hotels), or for specific groups, such as student accommodation or sheltered housing. The new duties apply irrespective of the use being made of other parts of that building and in addition to existing fire safety rules.
A Responsible Person is a person who has control of the building. This will usually be an occupier – for example, the freeholder, a long leaseholder or a tenant - but can also include someone responsible for common parts and/or the building’s exterior. Note that there can be more than one Responsible Person for a property.
The new rules ensure that, depending on the size of the building, residents are given proper information on how to stay safe, and relevant information is provided to fire and rescue services to enable them to respond properly, if there is a fire at the building.
They say that the Responsible Person in relation to a residential building in England must make sure:
- instructions on what to do in the case of fire (for example, who to notify and whether residents should exit the building or remain in their unit) are displayed conspicuously in the building;
- instructions on use of fire doors are given to residents, such as keeping them closed when not in use, and reporting of damage or defects.
In addition, if the building is more than 11 metres high they must check unit doors every year and fire doors in communal areas every quarter.
If it is more than 18 metres high, with seven or more storeys – known as a ‘higher risk building’ - they must also:
- provide the local fire and rescue services with an electronic record showing the materials used in, and design of, the external walls, their assessment of the fire risks arising from the use/design and steps they have taken to mitigate those risks;
- create a secure ‘information box’ in the building, containing their details and paper copies of the floor plans provided to fire and rescue;
- check all lifts and key firefighting equipment monthly, and report defects that cannot be fixed within 24 hours to local fire and rescue;
- provide a record of checks carried out to residents;
- instal fire signage that can still be seen in smoky or low light conditions, which must contain floor and flat numbers for each floor.
- 23 January 2023
- Persons occupying, owning, or renting a building should check whether they are Responsible Persons and, if so, ensure they comply with the new duties.
- If there are managing agents, ensure they are contractually obliged and equipped to comply with the new rules when performing their role.
- Check who is liable to pay compliance costs under relevant leases or other contracts.
This article from Atom Content Marketing is for general guidance only, for businesses in the United Kingdom governed by the laws of England. Atom Content Marketing, expert contributors and ICAEW (as distributor) disclaim all liability for any errors or omissions.
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Legal Alert is a monthly checklist from Atom Content Marketing highlighting new and pending laws, regulations, codes of practice and rulings that could have an impact on your business.