The Building Safety Bill was presented to Parliament on the 5th July 2021. It aims to strengthen and reinforce the entire building safety system, delivering on the recommendations highlighted in the Government’s Independent Review i.e. to create a “new and robust regulatory system in relation to higher-risk buildings”. The Bill sets out a series of clear and far-reaching responsibilities for landlords and building managers; together with those who commission, design, construct and refurbish higher-risk buildings.
The Bill is likely to enter into force in 2023, although “Gateway 1” will be introduced in August 2021. The Bill is expected to undergo further redrafts before it is enacted.
Immediate effects of the Bill:
• It will ensure there are clearly identified people responsible for safety during the design, build and occupation of a high-rise (18m/7 storeys and above) residential building
• A Building Safety Regulator will be established to hold to account those who break the rules and are not properly managing building safety risks, including taking enforcement action where needed
• It will provide residents of these buildings extended avenues to raise safety concerns and offer further mechanisms in addressing them where relevant
• Tenants will have extended rights to compensation for substandard workmanship and unacceptable defects
• It will drive the culture change needed across the industry to enable the design and construction of high-quality, safe homes in the years to come
The impact on Developers / Landlords:
• Building owners will be required to actively manage safety risks, including gateway points at design, construction and completion. This will ensure safety is considered at each and every stage of a building’s construction, with fire safety risks considered at the earliest stage of the planning process. The Fire Safety Act 2021 will also come into force shortly
• Under “Gateway 1”, the Health & Safety Executive will become a statutory consultee on associated planning applications and a fire strategy will be required as part of the application
• Landlords will be required to ensure residents are able to raise safety concerns and that these concerns are listened to. Landlords who do not meet their obligations may face criminal charges
• Supervision of the construction sector will be strengthened, with new requirements ensuring construction products are safe for their intended use; thus supporting the industry in raising overall standards
• A new developer tax, and a levy on developers seeking permission for certain high-rise buildings in England, is also being introduced to address defects and substandard construction in the existing high rise stock. In practice this will be used to address the cladding crisis
• The national regulator will be able to remove products from the market which present safety risks and also prosecute / use civil penalties against any business that breaks the rules and compromises public safety. The implications of materials being banned by the regulator on existing building stock could be profound if retrospectively applied
• Buildings constructed up to 15years prior to the Bill’s enactment will be liable under the regulations and any resident’s concerns will need to be addressed
• Leaseholders will be further protected by a requirement on Landlords to explore all avenues to meet remediation costs
• Developers will be required to join and remain members of the New Homes Ombudsman scheme. This will require them to provide redress to a homebuyer, including awarding any compensation where appropriate. Developers who breach the requirement to belong to the New Homes Ombudsman may receive additional sanctions
• The implications are yet to be fully understood; but clearly cost and potentially programme issues will arise. Furthermore, the already stretched supply market for materials may be further affected as existing materials are removed by the Regulator
The impact on residents:
• Residents in high-rise buildings will be safer in their homes and have more say in the management of the building
• They will be able to raise building safety concerns directly to the owners and managers of buildings, who will have a duty to listen to them
• If residents feel their concerns are being ignored, they can raise them directly with the Building Safety Regulator
• All homeowners, including leaseholders will have fifteen years to claim compensation for sub-standard construction work.
• This will apply retrospectively
• The Bill also contains measures to protect leaseholders by providing a legal requirement for building owners to explore alternative ways in meetings the costs of remediation works before passing these onto leaseholders. Evidence that this has been done will be required.
The following references provide further detailed information:
• Press Notice in full can be read here: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/new-regulator-at-heart-of-building-safety-overhaul
• The Building Safety Bill and related documents can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/collections/building-safety-bill
• Draft regulations (higher-risk buildings, dutyholders and competence) can be found at: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-safety-bill-draft-regulations
• Government has also published its response to the pre-legislative scrutiny of the Building Safety Bill, which can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-safety-bill-government-response-to-pre-legislative-scrutiny-by-the-select-committee