With a substantial amount of work and not the easiest of transitions through Parliament, the Act also updates and amends a range of other legislation (as well as no doubt going to change or introduce more) including the Defective Premises Act 1972, Building Act 1984, Landlord & Tenant Act 1985 and Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
Central to the Act are measures to clearly identify people responsible for safety during the design, build and occupation of a high-rise residential building. This includes multiple gateways to ensure building safety regulations are met through planning and construction process.
To support this, a number of new agencies have been created, including:
- A Building Safety Regulator (this will be HSE) - responsible for the safety and standards of all buildings and improving industry competence;
- A Construction Products Regulator – who can remove from the market unsafe products; and
- A New Homes Ombudsman scheme - to provide dispute resolution and determine complaints (by buyers of new homes).
With a view to providing more “easily accessible, reliable, up to date and accurate information on buildings”, those responsible for the building will have a duty to put in place and maintain a golden thread of information. As defined by GOV.UK, “The golden thread is both:
- the information about a building that allows someone to understand a building and keep it safe, and
- the information management to ensure the information is accurate, easily understandable, can be accessed by those who need it and is up to date.”
Protections within the Act include the introduction of
- a retrospective right to sue developers for defective works up to 30 years after a home is completed, this was previously 6 years); and
- measures to protect leaseholders from costs for unsafe cladding works;
One proposed aspect of the original Bill that didn’t make it was the creation of a Building Safety Manager who would have the day-to-day responsibility for managing the safety of higher risk buildings. This now falls to the Accountable Person, who is defined in the Act as “someone who holds a legal estate in possession of the common parts or, alternatively, someone who has relevant repairing obligations in respect of any part of the common parts.” Their responsibilities will include statutory obligations to:
- “Comply with the safety case and mandatory occurrence reporting requirements;
- Conduct an assessment of fire and structural safety risks for areas of responsibility;
- Prepare and keep under review a Residents’ Engagement Strategy;
- Provide residents with relevant safety information about the building;
- Keep and update prescribed information about the building; and
- Take all reasonable steps to prevent a major incident occurring (a major incident being defined as leading to a significant number of deaths or serious injury to a significant number of people) because of a building safety risk materialising and to reduce the severity of the incident.”
Some five years on from the tragedy at Grenfell Tower in London, the Building Safety Act 2022 has not only stiffened the regulatory framework, but impacted process throughout the design, construction and operation of our buildings. While it’s full extent is yet to be seen, it is already having an impact.