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Building Safety Bill receives Royal Assent

03 May 2022

THE GOVERNMENT’S Building Safety Bill received Royal Assent on Thursday 28 April 2022. Following months of debates and tabled amendments, the Building Safety Act 2022 is intended to ‘create lasting generational change’ to the way in which high-risk and high-rise residential buildings are both constructed and maintained.

The Building Safety Act 2022 will enshrine in law the Building Safety Regulator at the Health and Safety Executive who’ll provide oversight of the new system with powers of enforcement and sanctions. A Construction Products Regulator will also have powers to remove dangerous products from the market. In addition, a New Homes Ombudsman scheme is going to provide independent redress for new build property buyers who have issues with either their new home or its developers.

The Building Safety Act will also look to implement a raft of new measures designed to protect leaseholders from the costs of historic building safety defects. A new ‘waterfall’ system will be established to dictate who’s responsible for the funding of cladding and non-cladding related remediation.

Further, the Act is going to enshrine in law the new ‘golden thread’ of information for the storage and dissemination of all safety-related matters in the design and construction of high-risk and high-rise residential buildings. On top of that, there are new requirements being placed on duty holders to have clear accountability and statutory responsibilities as buildings are designed, constructed and refurbished.

Secondary legislation

Despite the Building Safety Bill becoming law, many of the provisions will not come into force until 12-to-18 months from the date of Royal Assent. There’s a requirement for the formation of secondary legislation and, of course, a need to prepare the industry for the new regime ahead. The Government has published a rough transition plan of the main regime which can be found online.

Eddie Tuttle (director of policy, external affairs and research at the Chartered Institute of Building) stated: “We are pleased the Building Safety Bill has received Royal Assent to ensure building safety is a priority and to provide much needed accountability in the system. This move delivers long overdue certainty for the industry. The next 12-to-18 months will be crucial in preparing built environment professionals for the new roles and competencies that will be required.”

Tuttle continued: “Concerns remain that some of the recent amendments, such as removing the duty to appoint a building safety manager, will lead to a lack of clarity over the right competencies and training for those in the ‘Accountable Person’ role and potential inconsistency in terms of the implementation of building safety management regimes.”

In line with its public benefit mandate, the CIOB will continue to play a vital role in supporting the quality and safety agenda. Tuttle concluded: “The CIOB will also continue to collaborate with its sister professional bodies in order to help ensure the new arrangements are workable in practice and that the development of secondary legislation and guidance is fit for purpose.”

Response from the RICS

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) has issued a fulsome response to the news. The organisation has stated: “While we know that there is set to be secondary legislation and guidance, making sure the details of this are right will be essential for industry and firms across the country to effectively implement the changes required. The industry will need a clear brief from Government on the timeline moving forward, detail as to when the legislation will be ready and information on any consultations that will be brought in to allow industry to support at pace. It’s critical for the RICS and other organisations representing the professions impacted by the Act to have the opportunity to offer their continued support in finding and shaping the solutions alongside Government.”

Further, the RICS feels that the professional indemnity insurance (PII) market remains too weak to meet the needs of the industry. “It needs delivery of the long-awaited Government External Wall Systems PII scheme to support professionals carrying out external wall assessments, which is a fundamental element in enabling industry to make buildings safe and affording consumers the reassurances they have long waited for.”

The RICS continued: “We also need Government intervention on finding a solution for PII for those firms who are carrying out wider fire risk and building safety assessments and those carrying out the remediation work, as well as for all those involved in the design, construction and management of high-risk buildings.”

While not featuring in the Building Safety Bill itself, resolving the PII issue for building safety professionals – something for which the RICS has campaigned since late 2018, in fact – will be “a vital component” to ensure the quick implementation of the Building Safety Act and also to help keep the construction sector moving.

Funding timeline

In the interests of current and prospective leaseholders, the RICS is calling for a timeline in terms of when funding will be available to remediate buildings and remediation work actually begins. On that note, the organisation has explained: “The RICS supports the Government in looking at holistic ways in which to fund the remediation programme, but up-front funding should be available to leaseholders along with a timeline for remediation so as to enable mortgage lending, meaning that sellers can sell and buyers can proceed with confidence.”

With the House of Commons agreeing to remove the Building Safety Charge and instead incorporate it into the existing service charge, consumers also “need clear boundaries and assurances” about how this will work in practice and how it will impact their service charges. The RICS will review how building safety costs can be incorporated into its upcoming Service Charge Residential Management Code (4th Edition), which is currently passing through its own consultation stages.

The RICS explained: “We have worked intensively with all stakeholders across many areas of building safety reform, while leading the implementation of solutions to increase the capacity of trained professionals, enabling greater assurance for lenders, valuers, purchasers and residents and keeping the UK housing market operating in the face of acute stresses arising from the loss of confidence in building safety, and in particular fire safety.”

The RICS will “continue to work constructively” with Government, the Building Safety Regulator, the British Standards Institution and, indeed, the wider industry to enable the measures in the Building Safety Act 2022 to be implemented swiftly. It will also continue its building safety work with the devolved nations of Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

In the meantime, the EWS-1 Form jointly developed by the RICS, UK Finance and the Building Societies Association (alongside the RICS’ own guidance on the ‘Valuation of Multi-Storey, Multiple-Occupancy Buildings with Cladding’) will be kept under close review and duly updated if any changes are deemed necessary.