7 key takeaways for responsible persons from the Government’s Building Safety Bill & Fire Safety Bill

The Government’s draft Building Safety and Fire Safety Bill has now been launched and housing providers are being urged to take action.

Here, Phil Bryant, Amthal’s Strategic Accounts Team Manager, looks at the details and what it means for Managing Agents and Responsible Persons.

On its launch, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick described the Bill as the “biggest improvements to building safety in nearly 40 years.

With the draft and the launch of a fire safety-focused consultation into the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 that will now run across the next 12 weeks, we believe there are seven main changes that will affect residents, responsible persons, managing agents and block management companies.

1. The Building Safety Regulator (BSR)
The draft Bill proposed, provides extensive detail on the Building Safety Regulator (BSR), a concept introduced by Dame Judith Hackitt in her post-Grenfell report on building and fire safety.

Sitting within the Health and Safety Executive, the duties of the new BSR, include:

  1. To introduce a better safety system
  2. To impose sanctions and regulations to ensure this happens

BSR will aim to put into place a “stringent regulatory framework” with a strong focus towards building and fire safety for developers and landlords. Included in this will be steps to enhance the capabilities and competence of those operating in the built environment sector.

This will be through the development of an ‘industry led competence committee’ and publishing non-statutory advice and guidance for various sectors.

This committee will also steer the establishment and development of building control sector standards, which came under intense analysis following Grenfell.

And, BSR will have powers to take ‘enforcement action’ and impose sanctions on managing companies for those who do not meet the regulatory standards. It will also act as the building control itself on some of the higher-risk buildings (see increased sanctions.)

2. “Dutyholders” and “Gateways”
Every building will be designated a new dutyholder system, as a person, or entity that must take responsibility for managing building safety risk.

The building cycle will be split into phases of the building’s life, with different ‘dutyholders’ for different phases or ‘gateways.’ For the construction phase, it will be the Principal Contractor.

The phases will be assessed at each handover by the Regulator, which will be allowed to step in and stop progress when it feels building and fire safety aims are not being met.

These different phases will be connected by a ‘golden thread of information,’ which will include the following details:

  • The original design and construction
  • The inclusion of fire safety information
  • The changes and upgrades to the building during its lifecycle.

The details should be held digitally so anybody at any stage can access it when needed.

Once the building is occupied, the dutyholder will become the accountable person, who will be responsible for the safety, once people are living in a block.

The responsible person will be expected to register the building with the BSR and secure a building safety assurance certificate before it is occupied. The certificate will only be issued once the regulator is happy that the accountable person meets statutory obligations. This process will also be brought in for existing buildings.

3. Building Safety Managers
Every high-rise building in the country will be required to appoint a Building Safety Manager, once the Building Safety Bill and Fire Safety Bill becomes law.

This role will be to support the responsible person to ensure safety standards are achieved in the day-to-day management of the building.

Other duties for the role will include (not limited to:)

  • Communicating works that need to be taken to achieve safety expectations to stakeholders
  • Making sure buildings are meeting regulator’s requirements
  • Staying abreast with latest advice or non-statutory guidance put in place by the regulator.

Please note the BSR will have the ability to prevent the approval to appoint a Building Safety Manager, if it believes the said person or entity does not meet the required expectations.

4. Building Safety Insurance
Following the devastating Grenfell Tower tragedy, the costs associated with fixing fire safety problems and implementing fire safety measures has generally been the responsibility of leaseholders.

Under the new plan, a new “building safety charge” will be set up for leaseholders. This new charge will be separate to the service charge, which is what fire safety works are currently paid through. Freeholders will be required to hold the money from the new charge in a separate account held by a financial institution and will only be allowed to pay for works with this.

Leaseholders will also be allowed to refuse payment if the charge is deemed “unreasonable” or if the freeholder has not provided a clear breakdown of costs.

However, under the new rules, leaseholders will be required to pay the fire safety charge within 28 days of when the bill was issued and will be required to cover some of the new measures brought in under the bill, such as paying for a building safety manager and the day-to-day management of the building.

5. New Committees
Alongside the new BSR, there will be several new bodies set up to support its work.

The first will be the Building Regulations Advisory Committee, with an objective to
offer “evidence-based guidance” on new issues that emerge in the built environment sector. The regulator will be able to use the committee to investigate emerging problems or issues in the built environment sector.

There will also be a new committee for industry competence, which will be put in place to overcome the fragmented and inconsistent competence of workers and managers that currently exists in the building safety sector. The Competence Committee will inform the regulator on improvements to competence frameworks and training to ensure capabilities of the sector improve.

A new ‘Residents Panel’ will also be formed to ensure residents have a voice in the changes being made to building safety and fire guidance and will include residents of high-rise blocks and representative tenants groups.

It is the role of the Building Safety Regulator to work with the Residents Panel on its strategic plan and any changes that may have an impact (directly or indirectly) on their rights and obligations. The regulator will also have a statutory obligation to regularly publish statements outlining how it will engage with residents in its work.

6. New Homes Ombudsman
On implementation of the Building Safety Bill, there is an expectation of a New Homes Ombudsman.

This will provide a way for new homeowners to make complaints against developers about the quality of the construction of their new home, and potentially have them investigated, especially if they breach the New Homes Ombudsman’s code of practice.

The ombudsman will work alongside developers to come up with a code of practice that could be used in relation to sales, marketing and standard and quality of workmanship, which would allow developers and buyers to be aware of the standards expected.

All developers will be invited to join the scheme, with potential severe implications for those that do not. Developers will likely be legally required to advertise their membership to the scheme to prospective buyers.

7. Increased Sanctions
Overall, the BSR has the capability to hand out stop notices on construction projects found to be breaching any regulations. The regulator will also be allowed to issue compliance notices, which will compel accountable persons to fix certain issues by a set date, with severe fines or imprisonment for any failure to comply.

It should also be noted that:

  • Badly performing building control bodies will be held to account, banned or removed from the inspector’s register where necessary.
  • If a corporate body is found to have committed an offence but is regarded that it was committed with “consent or connivance” of a Director, that Director may also be individually prosecuted.

Amthal is monitoring the progress of the Building Safety Bill and Fire Safety Bill closely to ensure it can remain proactive with responsible persons, managing agents and block management companies to prepare for the incoming changes and ensuring minimal disruption and complete compliance.