The Building Safety Bill received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022 and has now come into law, although the majority of the provisions included in the new legislation will not come into effect for another 12 to 18 months, as secondary legislation is developed.
Following months of debates and amendments, the Building Safety Act is intended to “create lasting generational change” to how high-risk and residential buildings are constructed and maintained in the UK following the 2017 Grenfell Tower disaster while protecting the rights of leaseholders.
What is the Building Safety Act?
This significant piece of legislation updates and amends a number of other laws, including, the Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985, the Defective Premises Act of 1972, and the Building Act 1984. The new law is intended to have safety measures implemented and to provide oversight of the new system with powers of enforcement and sanctions. A Construction Products Regulator will also have the power to remove dangerous products from the market.
Many aspects of the built environment will change, from fire-safety costs to provisions for disabled people. The aim is to eradicate the catalogue of errors that led to the tragic fire at Grenfell Towers in West London in June 2017.
The amendments give the power to the Government to prevent companies from building out homes “for any purpose” connected “with securing the safety of people or improving the standard of buildings”.
Construction Products Regulator
An important aspect of the Building Safety Act is the creation of a new National Regulator for Construction Products, which will oversee a much tougher regulatory regime for the industry. Levelling-up Secretary, Michael Gove, took aim at product manufacturers in April, warning them they should be made to pay for remediation works on buildings across England that are deemed to have historical issues. Major failings have been pointed out in the Grenfell inquiry when it comes to the types of products allowed on high-rise buildings.
The Government has said it will carry out and commission its own product testing to investigate non-compliance with safety standards or building regulations.
What does this mean for leaseholders?
Instead of leaseholders being given extortionate repair bills for their homes that they had considered to be safe, the new law should lay the burden of fixing issues on developers or builders.
The latest amendments gave the Government statutory powers to require landlords and associated persons to undertake and pay for remediation work for defects in “relevant buildings” where there is a “qualifying lease”.
The Defective Premises Act 1972 is an Act of Parliament that covers landlords’ and builders’ liability for poorly constructed and poorly maintained buildings, along with any injuries that may result.
This is a win for campaigners, leaseholders, and tenants as it means a number of costs that landlords currently are claiming expenses for from leaseholders will be put to a stop. Also, excluded costs for high-rise buildings may not now be charged to tenants, following an amendment to the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985.
What impact will the new laws have on relevant buildings that have already been built and existing occupied residential or mixed-use buildings?
Whilst much of the focus of the new laws has understandably been on how they will apply to the construction of new buildings, the Building Safety Act will have far-reaching implications in a number of ways, both once a building has been built and in respect of existing occupied residential or mixed-use buildings.
Landlords of “higher-risk buildings” will have to appoint at least one ‘Accountable Person’ and they will also have extensive duties. These duties include:
- Making an application for a Building Assessment Certificate for a registered building when they are requested to do so by the new Building Safety Regulator.
- Evaluating building safety risks in respect of their building and taking the necessary steps required to prevent the occurrence of a major incident in the building.
- Keeping a Safety Case Report that shows that a building is safe to be occupied.
- Handling complaints from tenants, providing them with certain information, and putting in place a Resident’s Engagement Strategy which would include obtaining information from tenants to maintain the safety of the building.
The new laws have also amended the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, SI 2005/1541, to increase the obligations on the responsible person(s) (e.g. a landlord) (as defined under the Order). The extra requirements include those concerning record-keeping, handovers, and maintaining and providing to tenants fire safety information.
The Building Safety Act introduces a new and interesting provision of relevance to tenants which is a ‘building liability order’. This provision means that in the circumstances where a shell company or special purpose vehicle (SPV) has been used to build a property, the Courts can make any associated company (assuming there is a sufficiently close relationship between them) jointly liable for any sums owed by the developing company.
The Building Safety Act also brings into force new safety obligations for tenants, which include:
- A tenant must not interfere with any safety equipment;
- That a tenant must not act in a manner that creates a significant safety risk to a building they are occupying;
- A tenant has to comply with any requests from an Accountable Person concerning the duty to assess safety risks in the building; and
- In an attempt to mitigate the risk of serious harm, an Accountable Person can apply for a Court order against a tenant in certain scenarios.
How can we help?
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