The House of Commons today debates the Fire Safety Bill, identifying key amendments that could affect the insurance sector

The insurance industry is bracing as the Fire Safety Bill (FSB) returned to parliament this afternoon for debate on several key amendments that will apply to all residential blocks of any height.

One of these is the McPartland/Smith amendment, which could prevent leaseholders from being charged for relevant building defects.

Leaseholders have been facing increased buildings insurance premiums following the Grenfell Tower fire, due to the safety concerns around cladding and, therefore, increased risk for insurers.

In Biba’s 2021 manifesto, which is themed around ‘resilience’, the trade body vowed to work with government on cladding-related insurance issues.

Speaking about this topic at last week’s Building Safety Register’s (BSR) webinar, ’Building Safety Logbooks and Upcoming Fire Safety Bill’, the co-founder of BSR Matt Hodges-Long said: “[The bill] aims to amend the Regulatory Reform Fire Safety Order 2005 in England and Wales.”

The reforms cover “where a building contains two or more sets of domestic premises; and to confer power to amend that order in future for the purposes of changing the premises to which it applies”.

The bill focuses on three key clauses:

  • Clause 1 – Clarifing the scope of buildings and doors, external walls, windows and attachments, for example balconies.
  • Clause 2 – Delegated powers for ministers to amend previous orders.
  • Clause 3 – Territorial extent and commencement.

Hodges-Long continued: “There is an unclear discussion and lack of consultation response around the implementation of the bill.”

He also questioned what this bill might do to the EWS1 form – will it negate the need for it altogether or will a fire risk assessment be needed in addition to the EWS1 form?

Lords amendments

There are a series of amendments that have been proposed for the Fire Safety Bill. These include:

  • A government-produced risk methodology that a responsible person would refer to for fire risk assessment purposes.
  • Information sharing with residents and fire rescue services, as well as an annual flat entrance floor inspection. This would include evaluating any shared external walls, monthly lift testing and checking evacuation information.
  • A public register of fire risk assessments, however there is debate around whether this should be a completely public register or only available for those that need to see it.
  • Prohibition on passing remediation costs to leaseholders and tenants - this has been proposed to be removed and replaced with the McPartland/Smith amendment.

Regarding the McPartland/Smith amendment, the government believes that payments around this will be covered within the Building Safety Bill (BSB).

Hodges-Long said: “Our retort to that is, no it won’t, because the BSB is only for 12,000 buildings over 18 metres [in height] - it’s not [for] over 300,000 buildings of all heights.”