Building Safety Act update
The Building Safety Act received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022, following a three year public consultation and legislative process. The Act itself was finally published on 13 May 2022. Here's what you need to know about the new legislation.
The Act implements most (but not all) of the recommendations of the Building a Safer Future review, commissioned in response to the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017. The legislation imports a new centrally regulated regime to govern the design, construction and maintenance of the built environment, and represents the most radical change to the building industry in fifty years.
The new Act establishes national Building Safety Regulator, sitting within the Health and Safety Executive, with responsibilities for monitoring the safety of all buildings in England. The Regulator has wide-ranging powers to regulate standards for buildings and construction work, including powers to investigate and prosecute breaches.
The Act establishes new "Dutyholder" obligations for clients, designers and contractors working on most building works covered by the Building Regulations, including a general requirement that all those appointed to undertake building works are "competent".
The Regulator will oversee a new three-stage building control approval regime for the design, construction and major refurbishment of "higher-risk buildings" (defined as residential buildings of two or more units that are at least 7 storeys or 18 metres tall and including hospitals and care homes meeting those height requirements for their design and construction stages). The Regulator becomes the building control authority for all higher-risk buildings and will establish and supervise a new building safety inspectorate.
New roles of "Accountable Persons" and "Principal Accountable Persons" will be responsible for registering higher-risk buildings and ensuring that building safety risks are managed during their occupation. However, the requirement to appoint a Building Safety Manager to help manage higher-risk buildings has been removed from the final legislation.
The Act imposes implied terms into tenancy agreements covered by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, requiring tenants to comply with landlords and Accountable Persons carrying out building safety activities. Landlords will be given access to enter dwellings for building safety purposes, subject to reasonable notice, and may apply for court warrants to enter properties.
In the most heavily publicised part of the Act, landlords' ability to recover leaseholder service charges for non-cladding remediation works has been severely limited. Courts will be empowered to make corporate bodies liable for remediating building works and make compensation payments to residents. Associated persons of liable bodies may also be required to make financial contributions, including where the original body has become insolvent.
The Secretary of State is given wide powers to establish a building industry scheme for developers, requiring them to make financial contributions towards remediation works. Non-compliant developers may be blacklisted from submitting planning and building control applications. Over 35 developers have committed to join the scheme, pledging £3bn towards a remediation works fund.
Claims under section 1 of the Defective Premises Act 1972 (the DPA 1972) will be extended. The Act extends the limitation period where the cause of action arises pre-commencement (i.e. for dwellings already completed) to 30 years. Where the cause of action arises at any other time, the limitation period will be extended to 15 years. The Act also introduces a new s.2A of the DPA 1972 which imposes a duty on those who take on any work on a building that contains a dwelling to ensure that the work does not render the dwelling unfit for habitation. The limitation period for these claims (prospectively) from the date of commencement is also 15 years.
The Act also establishes a New Homes Ombudsman, requires developers to provide new build home purchasers with 15 year warranties for defects rectification, and establishes a new more stringent regime to regulate construction products used in the UK.
The Act is a complex piece of legislation that will affect nearly every aspect of the construction industry. While key aspects of the new regime have already been set out in secondary legislation, there is much detail still to be provided by the Regulator. Please follow our website for more updates and information about the Act.