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Fire Industry Association draws attention to key points of Building Safety Bill

22 July 2021

THE FIRE Industry Association has scripted an Information Note for member companies (and the sector at large) about the recently announced Building Safety Bill, focusing in particular on key areas such as the Building Safety Regulator, the ‘Appointed Person’ and the three ‘Gateways’.

The Building Safety Bill is, of course, the direct result of recommendations made in the wake of Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.

The framework set out in the draft Bill will impact the entire construction supply chain. The provisions target ‘higher risk’ buildings, but the Bill will introduce a stricter safety regime with implications for all buildings. This includes all multi-occupancy residential buildings over 18 metres (or seven stories) in height across England. Care homes and hospitals are considered within this scope, but only during the design and construction stages.

The Building Safety Regulator is being created to oversee and enforce a rigorous building safety system. Those in senior roles in companies can also be liable if an offence is committed with “their consent or connivance” or is attributable to their neglect.

Further, the Building Safety Regulator’s function is going to be funded by a full cost recovery approach, enabling the former to charge fees – to be set in future regulations – and recover charges from those whom it regulates. Duty holders include the client, the principal designer at the design phase, the principal contractor in the construction phase and the ‘Accountable Person’ at the occupation stage.

The ‘Appointed Person’

The ‘Appointed Person’ must apply to register a higher risk building before it becomes occupied. The Building Safety Regulator will be responsible for keeping a register of such buildings. They will have to produce and maintain a safety case report, which must be overseen by the Building Safety Regulator.

The ‘Appointed Person’ will have to appoint a Building Safety Manager to oversee building safety on a day-to-day basis. The former must also maintain a Residents Engagement Strategy covering access to safety information and complaints procedures.

The Building Safety Regulator will have the power to replace the ‘Appointed Person’ with a designated Special Measures Manager if there are serious failures that endanger life safety. There will be additional measures in place to govern the competence of architects and other building industry professionals.

The three ‘Gateways’

The Building Safety Bill breaks a given building’s construction into three stages referred to as ‘Gateways’ with different duty holders and responsibilities. At each stage, information must be recorded and stored digitally, in turn creating a ‘golden thread’ of vital information about the building over its lifetime.

Gateway 1 is created at the planning stage. The required information, including a ‘Fire Statement’, will be provided by those applying for planning permission for developments. The Building Safety Regulator will become a new statutory consultee.

Gateway 2 supplements the existing building control system, providing a ‘hard stop’ where construction cannot begin until the Building Safety Regulator is satisfied in relation to the Building Regulations, safety and fire safety.

Gateway 3 is equivalent to the current completion/final certificate phase. Duty holders will be required to submit to the Building Safety Regulator prescribed documents and information on the completed building.

A New Homes Ombudsman will be created, affording householders direct access to the Ombudsman process. Developers who fail to sign up to the Ombudsman will face sanctions.

Under the Defective Premises Act, if a dwelling is unfit for habitation then a leaseholder can make a claim within six years of the building being constructed. This time limit is set to be amended to 15 years and will also cover refurbishment and remediation work.

Timeline of activity

The Government has stated that the Building Safety Regulator will be operating at scale within a period of 12 to 18 months and that it’s currently working in shadow form.

The obligations on the ‘Accountable Person’ are expected to come into force within 12 to 18 months of the Building Safety Bill receiving Royal Assent, which itself is not expected for 12 months, but could very easily happen by the end of the year.

Additional implications for stakeholders

Businesses will need to put in place internal processes to enable them to comply with their reporting obligations. Clients have a duty to check the competence of those whom they instruct to undertake works. Companies should take steps now to put in place suitable training processes. There may be implications for insurance.