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New building regulations came into force on 6 April 2024, implementing the requirements of the Building Safety Act 2022. Here's what you need to know about the new regulatory regime.

In August 2023, the Government published secondary legislation importing the new regulatory regime for building and design work anticipated by the Building Safety Act. A six-month transitional period was introduced to allow the industry to catch-up with the changes and to exempt some existing projects from the scope of the new regime. 

The new regulatory regime came fully into force 6 April 2024. Therefore, social landlords undertaking new building or design works need to operate under the new rules, with strict penalties for those who don't comply. 

Building Safety Regulator 

The Act establishes a new national Building Safety Regulator, located within the Health and Safety Executive, with responsibility for all buildings in England. The Regulator has a broad range of powers to regulate the built environment and will also prosecute breaches of the new regime. 

As from 6 April 2024, the Regulator becomes the building control authority for all new and existing "Higher-Risk Buildings" (HRBs). These are defined as residential buildings that are at least 18 metres or seven storeys tall (measured from ground level) and containing at least two residential units. Care homes and hospitals meeting these height requirements will be HRBs for their design and construction phase. 

Dutyholders and Competency requirements

The Building Regulations etc. (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2023 establish new Dutyholder roles in respect of most building work and design work covered by the Building Regulations 2010 and commencing after 1 October 2023. 

The Dutyholders roles replicate the existing CDM Regulations roles of Client, Principal Designer, Principal Contractor, Designer and Contractor, though these roles are additional to the CDM obligations. Social landlord clients undertaking building work and design work must appoint a Principal Contractor and Principal Designer for the work, ensure that these and other appointees are "competent", as defined in the new legislation. 

Gateways regime for Higher-Risk Buildings 

Social landlords commissioning new HRBs ("HRB Work") or undertaking major works to existing buildings ("Work to Existing HRBs") will be required to comply with the three-stage Gateways regime set out in the Building (Higher-Risk Buildings Procedures) (England) Regulations 2023.

Gateway 1, which has been in force since August 2021, requires the submission of fire safety information as part of planning approval applications for HRB projects. 

Gateway 2 requires the client (or someone on its behalf) to submit a Building Control Approval Application to the Regulator, setting out detailed designs and method statements for the project and details of key appointees. The Regulator has 12 weeks to determine any HRB Work application and 8 weeks for  Work to Existing HRB applications, and may approve applications unconditionally or subject the completion of specified requirements. Relevant projects must not commence until approval has been granted, and any projects commencing without approval will be an offence under the Building Act.

During the construction phase, the client and principal dutyholders must establish a digital facility for the storage of Golden Thread Information; a Mandatory Occurrence Reporting System for the reporting of safety occurrences on-site; and a Change Control log. Key changes to the project classified as "Notifiable Changes" must be notified to the Regulator before the change can be undertaken. Significant changes classified as "Major Changes" must be approved by the Regulator before they can be undertaken.

Following completion of the works, the client or someone on its behalf must submit a Gateway 3 application, now called a "Completion Certificate Application", setting out final as-built drawings and completed versions of the documents submitted at Gateway 2, together with statements from the client and principal dutyholders that the project is compliant with the Building Regulations. The Regulator has 8 weeks to determine Completion Certificate Applications, which again may be approved unconditionally or subject to fulfilling specified requirements. 

In-occupation obligations for HRBs 

Following the issue of a Completion Certificate, the owner of the common parts of the building (the "Accountable Person") or the exterior of the building ("Principal Accountable Person") will become legally responsible for managing safety risks in that building for its entire occupation period. 

For newly built HRBs, the Accountable Person must register the building with the Regulator before the building can be legally occupied. Occupation of an unregistered building will be an offence under the Building Safety Act, except where partial occupation was approved as part of the Gateway 3 application.

Existing HRBs were required to be registered with the Regulator by 1 October 2023. The Regulator has announced plans to "call in" all existing HRBs to be registered over the next 5 years.

What to do next

The new regulatory regime will require social landlords to rethink the procurement, planning and management of most building and design work undertaken in respect of their properties. Non-compliance with the rules will now be an offence, and individuals within organisations may also be held liable for breaches of the rules.

Given the high stakes, social landlords should familiarise themselves with their new obligations and ensure that the relevant requirements are being met.