Building Safety Bill
The Government published its proposed amendments to the Bill on 14 February 2022. The purpose behind the Building Safety Bill is to improve safety and performance of all higher-risk buildings in England & Wales, i.e. buildings that are at least 18 metres in height or have at least 7 storeys and have at least two residential units.
Some of the measures include:
- Appointing a New Accountable Person (NAP) who can be an individual, partnership or corporate body with control of the higher-risk building. Their role is to assess building safety risks and take all reasonable steps to prevent the occurrence of a building safety risk, such as a fire or structural failure. If a building risk occurs, then they are responsible for reducing the severity of such risk.
- Appointing a New Building Safety Manager (BSM) to support the NAP in complying with their obligations under the Bill and the day-to-day management of fire and structural safety in the building. The BSM must be competent to carry out such role and can be an individual or organisation.
- Introduction of a new developer levy of 4% that must be paid before construction begins on certain high-rise residential buildings if the developer’s profits exceed £25million. The intention behind the levy is to provide funds required to remove unsafe cladding in high rise buildings.
- Developers, manufacturers and building owners will be responsible for paying the costs for cladding remedial works to ensure that higher-risk buildings are safe. Leaseholders will be shielded from paying for such costs. Where building owners do not have the funds to pay, the leaseholders will be protected by a cap (£10,000 for homes outside London and £15,000 for homes inside London) being the amount leaseholders will have to pay towards non-cladding costs.
- There are proposals to force landlords to make contributions via new Contribution Orders.
- Obtaining Cost Contribution Orders for cladding manufacturers who have been successfully prosecuted under construction production regulations, requiring them to pay a share of the building remediation costs.
- Planning permission and building control sign off will be blocked for developers and construction product manufacturers who fail to contribute to the costs of remediation.
- Increasing the period in which building owners and landlords can take legal action against manufacturers whose defective products have been used in construction to 30 years (currently 6 years).
- A new Building Safety Regulator is to be established within the Health and Safety Executive to implement, oversee and enforce the new building safety regime. The Building Safety Regulator will have powers to prosecute for offences and sanctions include unlimited fines, and in respect of an individual, up to two years in prison.
- Higher-risk buildings will need to be registered with the Building Safety Regulator before the building can be occupied.
- Introducing provisions for the principal designer and principal contractor to create and maintain a “golden thread” of information, to capture and preserve information relating to the original design and subsequent changes to the higher-risk building. This is to ensure it can be used in the management of building safety risks throughout the lifecycle of a higher-risk building. The accountable person is responsible for the management of the golden thread information during occupation.
- Allowing relevant owners of new build homes to escalate complaints to a new homes ombudsman scheme. The Government will need to establish such a scheme to enable complaints against members of the scheme to be investigated and determined by an independent person.
- Extending the time limit for bringing a claim under the Defective Premises Act 1972 Act from 6 years to 15 years. The Act provides that if a homeowner discovers a defect in their property they may have a right of action against the original developer and/or builder of their property.
The Bill will be reviewed further over the next few months with the aim of becoming law later in the year. The Government describes the Bill as producing “the biggest changes to building safety regulations in a generation”. The Building Safety Bill aims to set out a clear pathway for the future on how residential buildings should be constructed and maintained. It is clear that following Grenfell, developers and contractors procuring the development of higher-risk buildings will need to step up to ensure risks are adequately considered and managed.