Publish date

23 March 2023

Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 – a general overview

The Government has recently introduced the Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022 (the 2022 Regulations), which came into force on 23 January 2023.  These regulations have been made under the existing Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (the 2005 Order), which governs fire safety in commercial buildings and the communal spaces and some other parts of mixed use buildings which contain at least two or more domestic premises.  The 2022 Regulations have been introduced in response to the recommendations made in the Phase 1 Report from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.

Which buildings will the 2022 Regulations apply to?

These regulations will impact all buildings which contain two or more sets of domestic premises where there are common parts through which residents would need to evacuate in the case of an emergency. The additional measures imposed by the 2022 Regulations become more stringent the higher the building.

What’s changed under the 2022 Regulations?

Many landlords and some commercial tenants will already be aware of the requirements set out in the 2005 Order.  These include obligations on a “responsible person” to ensure the safety of employees and that the premises are safe, to carry out a suitable fire risk assessment and review this regularly, and to comply with requirements relating to layout, emergency routes and exits, and the safe storage and use of hazardous substances on the premises, amongst others.  The 2022 Regulations have brought in a raft of additional duties for landlords and property managers in relation to common parts serving domestic premises with the most stringent being reserved for buildings over 11metres and 18 metres.

Who is deemed a responsible person?

The person responsible for compliance under the 2022 Regulations will usually be the same person who is currently responsible for compliance with the 2005. Order. In the context of the additional obligations in the 2022 Regulations this will be someone who:

  • Employs people to carry out work in the common parts
  • Controls the common parts in connection with their use for any business or trade
  • Is the owner, where a building is empty.

It is possible for there to be more than one responsible person per building. In fact, a commercial landlord and tenant can both be deemed responsible persons if the lease under which the tenant is occupying contains obligations on both parties in relation to the common parts. For a residential block of flats the responsible person may be the owner or the managing agents for the block or even a resident’s management company.

It is also possible for there to be “duty holders”, i.e. fire risk assessors or fire alarm engineers, but the extent of their obligations will be defined by their level of control and the terms of any contracts they have made with the owner of the property.  Whilst the responsible person will often employ such specialist contractors, to assist them in compliance, the government guidance states that you cannot delegate responsibility for compliance under either the 2005 Order of the 2022 Regulations and the responsible person will remain liable if the obligations have not been met.

The new obligations are summarised briefly below:

a)    In any property occupied by two or more tenants and with common parts, a responsible person must now display and provide tenants with fire safety instructions, together with further information about the importance of fire doors

b)    In residential buildings which are over 11 metres high, a responsible person must comply with the regulations mentioned at a) above, but also undertake annual checks of flat entrance doors and quarterly checks of all fire doors in the common parts of the building

c)    In a “high rise” residential building over 18 metres tall (or comprising more than seven storeys), a responsible person must comply with the regulations mentioned at a) and b) above, but also:

  • Provide the local fire and rescue service with electronic floor plans and leave hard copies in a secure container on site, together with the name and contact details for the responsible person(s)
  • Provide the local fire and rescue service with information about the design and materials of any external walls, and of any changes made, and notify them of the level of risk
  • Undertake monthly checks on lifts for use by firefighters and evacuation lifts, check the firefighting equipment and report any defects to the fire and rescue service if these cannot be resolved within 24 hours
  • Install signage visible in low light or smoky conditions so that each flat number can be identified from the stairwells.

Is a managing agent a responsible person?

A managing agent who has sufficient control can be a responsible person. Any landlords who have employed a managing agent or property manager to deal with the management and maintenance of a building may wish to check the terms of their management agreements to determine whether the agent/manager can be deemed to have control of the common parts. Likewise, any commercial landlord should check the terms of any lease under which their tenants are occupying.

Bearing in mind that responsibility under the 2022 Regulations may be shared but cannot be delegated, it may also be prudent to check with any managing agent or property manager that they have systems in place to ensure compliance with the 2022 Regulations.

What should I look for on a purchase of a property which is subject to the 2022 Regulations?

A buyer of a property subject to the 2022 Regulations and the 2005 Order will be deemed to be a responsible person immediately following completion of a purchase – there is no grace period.

It would be sensible to obtain a copy of the most recent fire risk assessment from the seller prior to completion to ascertain what, if any, works are required.  The seller should also confirm whether the recommendations in the report have been complied with or, if not, what remains outstanding.

A buyer may also want to check their building survey for any recommendations made in respect of fire safety.  If there are any concerns, or the seller does not have a fire risk assessment, it would be wise for any buyer to arrange for this to be carried out prior to completion.

If you have any questions about the topics raised in the article, please get in touch

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