On Monday 20th July 2020, the Government published a draft of their highly anticipated Building Safety Bill, which introduces extensive reforms and fundamental changes to current building safety legislation. The Building Safety Bill is a long-awaited response to Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety; following the Grenfell Tower Tragedy in June 2017.
The overall ethos of the Bill is that it introduces “a new era of accountability” and stresses that residents are at the heart of the new regime and “will never be ignored”. It advises that the industry should prepare for substantial change, and that the new Building Safety Regulator will be essential for ensuring that the new regime is effective.
In this article, we have outlined some of the most crucial changes and what they will mean for the industry. Starting with some of the important new roles that are to be introduced.
Building Safety Regulator
The Building Safety Regulator will be a new body that has been set up to oversee building safety management and enforce building safety requirements.
The Bill has announced that the Building Safety Regulator will be situated within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) and will be accessible to all parties including residents (see section below on Resident Engagement Strategy for further details). The regulator will have three main functions, which are, to implement the new, more stringent regulatory regime for higher-risk Buildings, to oversee the safety and performance of all buildings, and to assist in ensuring competence among the built environment industry and registered building inspectors. They will also be responsible for issuing licences authorising building occupation.
The Accountable Person (AP) for a building is likely to be the Landlord/Freeholder or a third party appointed on their behalf, for example, the Managing Agent. The AP will have defined competency which is not yet known.
Building Safety Manager
The Building Safety Manager (BSM) will be appointed to assist the Accountable Person (AP) meet their objectives. The BSM can be an individual or corporate role. Where the BSM is not an individual, the BSM must appoint an individual acting under its control to be the nominated individual for the building; the AP must be satisfied of the person’s capability to perform the functions of a BSM.
Overall, the BSM must maintain the safety case and they must have the correct skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours to allow them to do so.
What do we mean by Safety Case?
The Bill requires the Accountable Person for the building to demonstrate to a Building Safety Regulator that they are doing everything that can be reasonably expected of them to ensure that fire and structural building safety risks are being managed; this will be in the form of a Safety Case. The Accountable Person for an occupied higher-risk building must, as soon as reasonably practicable, prepare a Safety Case containing their assessment of the building safety risks and any steps they have taken in relation to those risks.
Safety Cases are commonplace in high risk industries such as Railway, Nuclear and Petrol-Chemical; where higher levels of confidence in safety must be demonstrated. So, they are not a new concept, only new to residential property management.
Building Assurance Certificate
The Accountable Person for an occupied higher-risk building must make an application for a Building Assurance Certificate in relation to the building. It would be a criminal offence for a person having control of a building not to make a valid application for its registration. The Building Safety Regulator would not permit buildings in scope to be occupied until a certificate has been issued and the building has been successfully registered.
This is likely to be a much easier process for new builds than for buildings already in use. For existing buildings, it has been proposed that there be a transitional implementation period allowing for investigation works to commence, to collect detail on the building’s history.
The Building Assurance Certificate will identify the Accountable Person, the Building Safety Manager, the building for which the AP is accountable, and the conditions for ensuring the building is safe for residents.
Resident Engagement Strategy
Dame Judith Hackitt’s Review found that, residents did not have a strong enough voice in the safety management of the building they live in. It was therefore recommended that, building owners develop a Resident Engagement Strategy to work towards resolving this.
As a result, residents will be placed at the heart of the new regime. The Draft Bill states that “those that build and manage high rise buildings will need to actively demonstrate how they have considered residents safety in their work, and residents will have access to safety information about their building.” In order to do this, the Bill therefore requires that all Accountable Persons produce a Resident Engagement Strategy, to promote the participation of residents and flat owners in the decisions being made in regards to the safety of their building. The Accountable Person also has the duty to provide a copy of the Strategy to each resident or flat owner (aged 16 or over) and the strategy should include:
- The information that will be provided to residents/ flat owners about decisions relating to the management of the building.
- The aspects of those decisions that the accountable person will consult residents/ flat owners about.
- The arrangements for obtaining and taking account of the views of residents/ flat owners, and how this will be measured.
One of the specific concerns that The Independent Review of
Building Regulations and Fire Safety addressed was that residents often
struggled to get their complaints addressed, therefore, the Engagement Strategy
will aim to give residents an effective escalation route to voice their
concerns to the Building Safety Regulator (where the AP has not resolved them).
Duties’ of Residents
Of course, residents will also have their own duties to assure the safety of their buildings. A resident of an occupied higher-risk building, aged 16 or over, must:
- Comply with a request, made by the AP for the building, for information reasonably required.
- Keep in repair and proper working order any relevant items (any electrical or gas installation or appliance that is in the dwelling in which the resident resides or is controlled by a resident of the dwelling).
- Take reasonable care to avoid damaging any relevant safety item (an item that is in, or forms part of, the common parts and is intended to improve the safety of persons in or about the building).
Where it appears to the AP for an occupied higher-risk building that a resident has breached their duty, the AP may give the relevant person a notice and apply to the court.
What happens now?
Now the draft Bill has been published, it will go through a period of consultation before it is introduced to Parliament.