The Building Safety Act was introduced due to the Grenfell disaster in 2017.
Having obtained Royal Assent in April 2022, the Act’s primary aim is to control building safety risks in order to secure the safety of people within or around buildings.
However, the Act and its accompanying regulations can be difficult to understand and interpret, with the same term having different meanings depending upon where it appears.
This article is intended as a supplement to our past blog, “Building Safety Act 2022 – What You Need to Know”, adding some further details on the Act’s context and providing recent updates.
You can contact our Property Litigation team if you have any additional questions on how this legislation impacts you or your business.
It would be fair to say that the Building Safety Act has resulted in a wave of reaction from professionals in the property industry.
Earlier this year, in a discussion with Place North West, Fiona Fletcher-Smith, Chief Executive of L&Q, shared her concerns regarding the impact that a skills gap in the UK may have upon the Building Safety Act’s execution.
Also, Todd Marler, Senior Director of Operations at Greystar, when questioned on what their one request of the government would be, responded, “[t]ake more time to understand what the impacts will be”.
Moreover, Suzannah Nichol MBE, Chief Executive of Build UK, noted, “[n]o organisation should be sitting back and waiting to be told what to do”.
Although it would be easy to presume that the Building Safety Act is only of significant relevance to high-rise residential buildings, the Act is, in fact, as the guidance notes to the Commercial Property Standard Enquiries tells us, “one of the most far-reaching pieces of real estate legislation this century”.
Indeed, the Act permeates the commercial property sector, with several of its provisions applying to all properties, such as those that relate to building liability orders.
Further, “higher-risk buildings” (HRBs) can include mixed-use properties, as opposed to just wholly residential buildings.
The increased prevalence of assets such as purpose-built student accommodation within portfolios means this Act is all the more pertinent for investors.
Building Safety Regulator
A key feature of the Building Safety Act is the Building Safety Regulator (BSR), whose role is to preside over and implement the Act’s fundamental provisions.
One of the BSR’s core functions is that of supervising “the safety and standards of all buildings”.
The Health and Safety Executive (HSE) has been appointed as the BSR, as per s2(1) of the Building Safety Act.
We are told in s3 that, in exercising its building functions, the BSR must bear in mind that regulatory activities ought to be conducted in a manner which is “transparent, accountable, proportionate and consistent” and “targeted only at cases in which action is needed”.
October 2023 Update
Earlier this year, secondary legislation that introduces a new regime for the design and construction of HRBs within the BSA was published, with an enforcement date of 1 October 2023.
This introduced compulsory building control processes and building rules and amendments to the operation of building control inspectors.
For example, duty holder responsibilities were enforced for the owners of HRBs both during the construction of the building as well as when it is in occupation.
Moreover, there is now a requirement to create and sustain a ‘Golden Thread’ of information for every HRB. This regime is overseen by the BSR.
Indeed, except for those HRBs which fall under the transitional provisions, there no longer remains the option of using the local authority building control or an approved inspector – the BSR has been made the building control authority for every HRB.
Additionally, the BSR has to sign off works and distribute a completion certificate before any new HRB becomes occupied.
1 October 2023 also signified the deadline for registering all existing high-rise residential buildings, with the wide-ranging impact of the BSA being demonstrated by the fact that more than 13,000 applications had been started by this date by duty holders.
Indeed, it is an offence to now enable residents to occupy a high-rise residential building which is not registered.
From 1 April 2024, several further developments are set to be introduced.
These include the conclusion of transitional arrangements for HRBs, the enforcement of the Professional Conduct Rules for Registered Building Control Approvers (RBCAs) and the Code of Conduct for Registered Building Inspectors (RBIs), and the granting of building assessment certificates from the BSR.
In addition, 1 April 2024 marks the deadline for registering as Building Control Approvers and Building Inspectors.
Although 1 October 2023 saw a wave of regulations which added to the pre-existing legal foundation in this area, a degree of uncertainty remains as we await to see the journeys through and outcomes of related cases in the courts, as well as the enactment of further regulations.