Once it becomes law, the Building Safety Bill, described by the government as “the biggest changes to building safety regulations in a generation”, will have a huge impact on developers and contractors involved in the design and construction of “higher risk” buildings, as well as those who own them, live in them and manage them.
For the purposes of the Bill, higher-risk building means a building that is:
- At least 18 metres in height or has at least 7 storeys; and
- Contains at least 2 residential units.
The Bill aims to identify, prevent, manage and regulate higher-risk buildings and building safety risks. A ‘building safety risk’ is defined as
“a risk to the safety of people in or about a building arising from any of the following incurring as regards the building – (a) the spread of fire; (b) structural failure; (c) any other prescribed matter”.
It will be policed by the “Regulator”, which will be the Health and Safety Executive (HSE).
The provisions of the Bill will become law in stages, staggered over several months. The Bill will probably receive Royal Assent between April and July 2022. The various provisions of the Bill then come into force in stages by reference to a number of months after Royal Assent.
We outline below the main provisions of the Bill and when they are likely to come into force, assuming that Royal Assent is given between April and July 2022. More detailed articles on these provisions will be published on our website shortly.
Royal Assent + 2 months (June – September 2022)
· Limitation period under the Defective Premises Act 1972 to be extended so that a claim can be brought within 15 years of completion. The DPA will also be extended to apply to common parts of a building, not just the dwellings
· An extended 15 year limitation period will also apply to section 38 of the Building Act 1984 (essentially, applicable where there is a breach of Building Regulations)
Royal Assent + 12 months (April – July 2023)
· Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005- changes and amendments;
· Architect’s Registration Board- powers will be strengthened;
· Construction Products- additional powers will be introduced for the regulation of the quality etc of construction products.
· Residential Panel- formally established – this is a significant provision whereby the Regulator has to establish and maintain a committee consisting of residents of higher-risk buildings. The Regulator must consult this Panel on matters relevant to residents.
Royal Assent + 18 months (October 2023 – January 2024)
· Establishment of various committees, including Building Advisory Committee and Industry Competence Committee, to be consulted by the Regulator.
· Mandatory registration of registered building inspectors and building control approvers – note that the Bill introduces new “building control approvers”, to replace approved inspectors. The Regulator will oversee Building Control for higher-risk buildings. Various changes will also be made to the Building Control regime, for example Building Control Initial Notices will be cancelled once a building becomes a higher risk building.
· The Accountable Person and their duties. This is perhaps one of the most significant provisions in the Bill and many of the obligations in terms of managing building safety risks fall upon the Accountable Person- this will generally be the management company and- for certain duties- the freeholder.
· Mandatory Occurrence Reporting- This will require dutyholders (including Accountable Persons) to inform the Regulator of structural and fire safety occurrences that could cause a significant risk to life
· Gateways 2 and 3- come into force. The Building Safety Bill will introduce “Gateways” as a means of ensuring that at each stage of a building’s design and construction careful consideration is given to the regulatory requirements that the development must comply with. There are three Gateways, to be considered as “stop/go points”, which must be passed at different stages of a development (1. the planning stage; 2. prior to building works commence; and 3. the completion/final certification stage) and which will make sure that a development is complying with the applicable building regulations. Gateway 1 is already in force (from 1 August 2021).
· Developer Levy- introduced. This will be a new levy that must be paid before construction begins on higher-risk buildings.
Once enacted, the Building Safety Bill will impact every stage of a higher-risk buildings life, from planning, design, construction to occupation and management. Virtually everyone involved with such buildings will be impacted. It appears, however, that those with a legal interest in the building (particularly freeholders) and management companies bear the bulk of the responsibility in terms of managing Building Safety risks once the building has been occupied.
It must be emphasised that this Bill is still in committee stage and may be amended. The above timescales may also be subject to slippage. It is virtually certain, however, that the bulk of these provisions will find their way into law and that all parties involved with such buildings, particularly freeholders and management companies, need to be well aware of these provisions well before they come into force between 2022 and 2024.