In June 2019, the government published the ‘Building a Safer Future’ consultation, detailing proposals to achieve long-term reform of the building safety system. These changes will apply to the property industry as a whole and have bearing on the planning and construction of new buildings, through to completion, occupation and everything beyond.
The proposal begins by including any buildings that are 18 metres (or 6 stories) and higher, with indications of an intention to increase the scope gradually thereafter by lowering that height. It is still early days and as of May 2020 the reform still needs to be drafted and put through Parliamentary Debate, however, once it does come into effect existing buildings will be introduced to the system in a “phased way” (although there is little detail as to quite how this phased process will be operated).
One of the main things that will come from Building Safety Reform will be the introduction of important new roles that will work together to ensure safety.
We have put together an outline of each of the new roles that are to be introduced, including what we know about them so far, starting with the Building Safety Regulator.
- Building Safety Regulator
The Building Safety Regulator will be a new government body set up to oversee every stage of the building safety management process across the UK. The Building Safety Regulator will possess strong enforcement powers, akin to that of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE)– It will also be run by the HSE. Among many things, this new Regulator will be responsible for issuing and controlling building licenses that authorise the buildings occupation, as well as, overseeing and intervening (if necessary) in renovation and refurbishment projects. Furthermore, they will be accessible to all parties in the chain, including residents who may choose report unsafe activities or management practices.
The Building Safety Regulator will also have pivotal roles in the Planning and Construction of new buildings.
- Accountable Person
The Accountable Person for a building is set to be the Landlord/Freeholder, or someone from a board of RMC directors, for that building. The Accountable Person can appoint a professional (e.g. a Managing Agent) to assist with their responsibilities, but they will not be able to delegate their accountability for these responsibilities to that professional.
The role of the Accountable Person takes on ultimate responsibility for fire and structural risks of the building – they must sign the building safety charter and they are also responsible for appointing (and funding) the Building Safety Manager role for the building. As far as we know, the Accountable Person can be an individual or a legal entity, but they must meet a competency criteria level, which is yet to be announced.
- Building Safety Manager
One of the roles which we have talked about a lot at industry events is that of a Building Safety Manager, and this often comes with an array of questions- some of which are yet to be answered and are still under debate!
We do know that the role of the Building Safety Manager will be appointed by the Accountable Person and they will be responsible for maintaining the overall safety of the building.
The role is a vital part of the reform and will be key to maintaining the Building Safety Case, and ensuring that residents engage with the important and significant risks documented within.
The safety case for each building will contain the “totality of the building safety information”, detailing every schematic and technical feature from the buildings planning and construction phases as well as detailing all current fire and structural risks. The Building Safety Manager must ensure that any changes to the building or projects that affect the Fire or Structural integrity are recorded here as the Building Safety Regulator will have an ongoing keen interest in this document.
Much like the Accountable Person, the Building Safety Manager must also meet a competency criteria level that is yet to be announced.
- The Resident
Ok, so residents have always been there and so this isn’t exactly a ‘new role for the industry’, however, the residents have been handed a significantly more prominent part to play – which we think makes complete sense.
If you are residing in a building where your safety is managed by others, then why shouldn’t you have ready access to pertinent information that may one day save your life?
Under the new system, Residents are given a voice, entitling them to access relevant safety data and, among other things, have a means of reporting safety concerns to the Building Safety Manager (BSM) for their building.
It will be a requirement under the new regime for the BSM to initiate and facilitate this process through a Residents Engagement Strategy. Residents will also be able to report unsafe practices to the Building Safety Regulator, if they feel that their concerns are not being listened to.
If you are a Managing Agent working on behalf of a freeholder or RMC, then it’s worth keeping an eye on the competency frameworks that will no doubt be released soon (we will provide an update once they are finalised) – As a property professional, this will give you some idea as to whether you wish to – or, indeed, if you are able to – speak to your clients about assisting them with this new responsibility.
For further information or guidance, please contact our expert team.