Building Safety Bill set to herald new fire safety compliance measures

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Our note for Social Landlords on the potential implications of the draft Building Safety Bill in relation to new fire safety compliance measures can be found here.

However, the Bill has much wider implications for the construction industry as whole.

The Bill is the government’s response to the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy and seeks to implement the recommendations of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.

In essence, the proposed legislation is intended to deliver a stronger regulatory system, better performance of all buildings and, importantly, to give residents a stronger voice. It covers design, construction and occupation.

The key will be the content of the regulations which will take effect under the new law.

In summary, the key proposals are:

  • Establishing a new national Building Safety Regulator who will be responsible for implementing the new regulatory regime.
  • The imposition of competency requirements for those working on higher-risk buildings, i.e. for the approval of design, construction and occupation.
  • Establishing an Accountable Person who will be legally responsible for the assessment and prevention of safety risks in higher-risk buildings. The Accountable Person may be the individual or corporate entity who has a legal interest in the common parts of the building or who has a relevant repairing obligation. It may therefore extend to management companies. The Accountable Person will also be responsible for obtaining a Building Assurance Certificate prior to the building being occupied.
  • The appointment of Building Safety Manager by the Accountable Person, who is responsible for the day to day management of fire and structural safety in the building.
  • The preparation of a Resident Engagement Strategy by the Accountable Person and Building Safety Managers in conjunction with residents.
  • A new regime for charging tenants for the cost of carrying out building safety work, though this does not include the cost of works required as a result of enforcement proceedings by the Building Safety Regulator or any negligence or breach of duty by the Accountable Person.
  • A new system for the withdrawal of construction products which are considered a risk.

The Bill also sets out details of sanctions which may be imposed for breaches. These include criminal proceedings (which may be pursued against individuals within corporate entities where the breach was committed with their consent or due to neglect) which can result in imprisonment or fines.

The Explanatory Notes to the Bill set out the proposed definition of “Higher-Risk Buildings” which covers residential buildings of at least 18 metres or more than six storeys above ground level, with two or more units.

It appears that the government wants to ensure the upgrade of existing buildings within as little as two years from implementation of the Bill, though it remains unclear how quickly this is likely to be. However, the implications are likely to be far reaching, and therefore timely preparation will be important to ensure compliance.