Solicitor Sona Vig, in our Commercial Property team, provides a summary of the Fire Safety Act 2021.
The Fire Safety Bill was introduced in March 2020 following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 and was made law on 29 April 2021 and has become the Fire Safety Act 2021.
The Fire Safety Bill amends parts of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 by confirming that duty-holders/building owners of buildings containing multiple domestic premises must manage and reduce the risk of fire for:
- the building’s structure and external walls (including cladding, doors, windows and balconies); and
- all doors to individual flats that open into common parts.
The Fire Safety Bill was passed through Parliament following a debate over who pays the costs of cladding remediation works and other fire prevention measures. Eventually, the proposal for the Bill to be amended to prevent freeholders from passing on remediation costs to leaseholders through increased service charges or one-off payment demands was defeated by the Government. As such, leaseholders of properties with fire safety defects remain at risk of being forced to pay for the necessary remedial works.
The Government's rejection of the proposed amendment has been widely condemned and this issue may therefore be revisited in due course.
A Government fund of £5bn is available to pay for work on taller buildings and there are also plans to introduce a long term, low-interest loan scheme for smaller buildings, which intends to cover the cost of removing combustible cladding and fix fire safety risks. The cost of repaying these loans will be passed on to leaseholders, with a cap on repayments, at £50 per month.
Many leaseholders are concerned that their flats have become unsellable due to lenders being unwilling to offer mortgages until necessary remedial work is carried out and the potential of excessive service charge being payable, should the building not benefit from the above Government schemes.
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This article is intended for the use of clients and other interested parties. The information contained in it is believed to be correct at the date of publication, but it is necessarily of a brief and general nature and should not be relied upon as a substitute for specific professional advice.