THREE SEPARATE amendments were passed by the House of Lords to the Fire Safety Bill, including banning leaseholders ‘from being forced to pay’ for fire safety remediation costs.

In December last year, the government’s Queen’s Speech saw building safety and fire safety bills introduced, with both setting out to ‘learn the lessons’ from Grenfell. The Fire Safety Bill ‘hint[ed]’ at supporting the findings from the Grenfell inquiry’s first phase, including ‘main benefits’ such as providing residents with ‘reassurance’ on fire safety and making it clear that building owners and managers know they are ‘responsible for assessing the risks of external walls and fire doors’.

Main elements were to include a clarification that the scope of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 [FSO] ‘includes the external walls of the building, including cladding’ as well as ‘fire doors for domestic premises of multiple occupancy’. ‘Relevant enforcement powers’ to hold owners and managers ‘to account’ would be strengthened, while a ‘transitional periods’ for these roles, the responsible person and the fire and rescue services (FRSs) would ‘assist’ in placing infrastructure.

In January, more details were released including the requirement for building owners to ‘fully consider and mitigate’ the risks of external wall systems and individual flat doors, as these changes would ‘make it easier to enforce’ where owners have not remediated combustible cladding ‘by complementing the powers under the Housing Act’.

The government is also set to work alongside local authorities and support ‘enforcement options’ where ‘there is no clear plan for remediation’, as building owners are ‘responsible for ensuring their buildings are safe’. In late March, the bill was officially introduced, and was said to amend the FSO to ‘clarify’ that the responsible person or dutyholder for multi occupant residential buildings ‘must manage and reduce’ the risk of a series of elements.

These include the structure and external walls of a building, including cladding, balconies and windows, and entrance doors to individual flats ‘that open into common parts’, with this clarification to ‘empower’ FRSs to take action ‘and hold building owners to account if they are not compliant’. It would also provide a ‘foundation’ for secondary legislation to ‘take forward’ the inquiry’s recommendations.

Those included the responsibilities of building owners and managers of high rise and multi occupant residential buildings, including ‘regular’ lift inspections and reporting results to FRSs; and ensuring evacuation plans ‘are reviewed and regularly updated’, as well as personal evacuation plans for residents ‘whose ability to evacuate may be compromised’.

Others include ensuring that fire safety instructions ‘are provided to residents in a form that they can reasonably be expected to understand’, and ensuring that individual flat entrance doors ‘where the external walls of the building have unsafe cladding’ comply with current standards. The bill will also give Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick the power to amend lists of qualifying premises that fall within the scope of the FSO ‘by way of secondary legislation’.

In May, the bill received its second reading in parliament, before St Albans MP Daisy Cooper later tabled amendments in July ‘to help protect leaseholders living in homes with dangerous cladding’. Most recently in September, the bill passed the first stage before becoming law, but Labour saw an amendment defeated that had aimed to ensure that the inquiry’s first phase recommendations were implemented.

The bill ‘cleared the Commons’, with Mr Brokenshire adding that reforms will be introduced in the ‘fastest possible time’, and that the bill ‘must be brought into law first before other changes can be made’. The amendment was defeated by 118 votes to 318, and Mr Brokenshire ‘insisted the government is taking action’, and that the amendment would ‘not hasten any more than what the government is intending and proposing’.

Earlier this week, it was reported that Labour was again putting the amendment forward in the House of Lords, and yesterday it was reported that it had been passed by 269 votes to 250. Inside Housing has reported that two other amendments were also passed, including ‘banning leaseholders from being forced to pay fire safety remediation costs’ and the creation of a public register for fire safety.

This would be ‘similar’ to the Energy Performance Certificate register for prospective property leaseholders, renters and owners. Liberal Democrat peer Baroness Pinnock tabled both amendments, with the first aiming to ‘prohibit the owner of the building from passing the cost of any remedial work’ to leaseholders except where the leaseholder is the owner of the building.

The second meanwhile aims to ‘establish the provision, in law, of a public register of fire risk assessments’, and commenting on the results, she said: ‘Currently freeholders are passing on the remediation costs needed following the Grenfell tragedy, leaving many with the choice of either facing bankruptcy as they’re forced to pay huge fees, or selling their home for a lot less value due to the work needing to be done.

‘The vote today has seen not only the Liberal Democrats’ plans to ban these outrageous costs succeed, but so have the party’s plans to introduce a register to ensure homes receive a fire safety rating to introduce desperately needed accountability and transparency into the system.’

The news outlet noted that the bill will return to the House of Commons, while shadow minister for policing and fire Sarah Jones commented: ‘The choice for the government is now a simple one – support fire safety measures that it agreed to implement over a year ago, or continue to break a solemn promise to take action following the Grenfell Inquiry.’