The Building Safety Act 202227 Oct 2023 | Shilpa Mathuradas
This much awaited Act was introduced into Parliament on 5th May 2021 as a consequence of the Hackitt Report on Building a Safer Future after Grenfell. It passed through Parliament on 26th April 2022 and received Royal Assent on 28th April 2022. Much of it is not expected to come into force for 6 to 12 months. This note seeks to summarise the key aspects of the legislation.
- To protect qualifying leaseholders from the costs associated with remediating historical building safety defects holding those responsible to account.
- Overhauls existing regulations to make clear how residential building should be constructed, maintained and made safe.
- Creates three new bodies to provide effective oversight of the new regime: the Building Safety Regulator, the National Regulator for Construction Products and the New Homes Ombudsman.
Higher risk buildings
The legislation focusses on high risk buildings which are generally those over 18 metres. Residents in such buildings will have more of a say in how the building is kept safe and will be able to raise safety concerns directly with the owners and managers of their building known as accountable persons and who are responsible for repairing common parts of higher risk building.
Each building must have an accountable person who is clearly identifiable. The accountable person can be an organisation or individual who owe or has a legal obligation to repair any common parts of the building and is accountable for the fire and structural safety risks of the building. This can include a freeholder, landlord, management company, resident management company or right to manage company. If the accountable person is an organisation then someone from that organisation should be a single point of contact for the Building Safety Regulator.
If a resident feels their concerns are being ignored, they can raise them with the Building Safety Regulator.
An accountable person is responsible for assessing and managing the risks posed to people in and about the building from structural failure or the spread of fire in the parts of the building they are responsible for.
To do this the accountable person must:
- Put measures in place to prevent building safety risks happening and reduce the severity of any incident that does happen;
- Report certain fire and structural safety issues or incidents;
- Engage with residents about the building’s safety and carry out duties relating to the resident engagement strategy which is a strategy that describes how all residents over the age of 16 will be included in building safety decisions.
- Keep, update and provide information about the building for the building safety case which is a record of basic building information e.g. height, design, plans etc.
- Transfer building safety information to any incoming accountable person;
- Notify the Building Safety Regulator if there is a change to the accountable person.
Protection for leaseholders
The Act removes the idea that leaseholders should be the first port of call to pay for historical safety defects. Building owners will not legally be able to charge qualifying leaseholders for any costs in circumstances where a building (in the majority of cases meaning those over five storeys or eleven metres tall) requires cladding to be removed or remediated.
Qualifying leaseholders will also have robust protections from the costs associated with non cladding defects, including interim measures like waking watches. The Act introduces new rights including:
- The right to information about the safety of their building
- The right to challenge decisions made by the building owners
- The right to be compensated for the costs of making homes safe.
It also introduces new limitation periods which extends the limitation period for certain claims. A leaseholder now has 15 years from the date of accrual of action to take action for works on dwelling (i.e. not their construction) or breaches of building regulations relating to any building.
In respect of construction of dwellings:
- If you are entitled to bring a claim before 28th June 2022 then it is 30 years from the date of accrual of the right of action
- If not entitled to bring a claim before 28th June 2022 then it is 15 years from the date of accrual of the right of action.
The legislation is very complex and is not all in force yet. Much of whether this legislation has teeth will depend on the success of the new bodies that are created and whether they are sufficiently manned to deal with the issues that they are supposed to deal with and take the necessary enforcement action where necessary.
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