The Grenfell Tower tragedy of 2017 continues to be the subject of much debate, alongside all else the country has had to contend with over this incredible past year.
The fire safety risks from the use of particular forms of cladding on domestic residential buildings in particular has been the subject of extensive review since Grenfell, with a number of Government and construction industry inquiries and the issue of new regulations and guidance. The Fire Safety Act 2021 has now also been passed, but there is on-going anguish on the part of many home owners who are unsatisfied with what is now offered as they face the costs of remedial work to replace dangerous cladding and other building materials used in their homes.
The evidence of what happened at Grenfell is that the external walls of the tower failed to comply with the existing Building Regulations in that they did not adequately resist the spread of fire having regard to height, use and position of the Tower. What followed was advice for building owners in regard to fire risk and advice on external wall cladding systems. In order to satisfy the new requirements many high rise residential buildings, including those with aluminium composite material cladding and high pressure laminate panels, balconies and fire doors must now be remediated. The costs are to be borne by building owners and by tenants in accordance with the terms of their leases. The new Act has been introduced to support that remediation work.
So what does it say:
- Applying to England and Wales, the Act includes an amendment to the Fire Safety Order of 2005 and brings into effect some of the recommendations of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry.
- The Act confirms where responsibility lies in multi occupied buildings in regard to fire safety and the management of associated risk.
- Any building containing two or more sets of domestic premises are covered in regard to the building’s structure, common walls and also common parts including front doors and attached balconies.
- The building owner or manager in such buildings must assess risk related to fire and take precautions to reduce the risk of the spread of fire and the fire and rescue authories have been given enforcement powers to hold owners and managers to account.
The Bill leading to the Act was heavily debated as it passed through Parliament. Campaigners for those who are in existing buildings affected by the regulations pushed for the Act to provide for greater financial support to replace non-compliant cladding. The Government has put up £5BN as a fund to provide support but leaseholders who see themselves as being trapped in homes which they cannot now sell argue that this is insufficient. They argue that the Government should meet all costs up front and then seek recovery from the construction industry. It is almost certainly true to say that for some occupiers they will simply be unable to afford the costs of what they are being asked to take on, even with the support now on offer.
Expect the consequences of the fire at Grenfell to continue to resonate for some time to come yet.
For more information on any of the items raised in this article please contact Colin Jones on 01223 461155 or click here to email Colin.