New regulator placed at heart of Government’s building safety overhaul
25 July 2021
PUBLISHED ON Monday 5 July, the Building Safety Bill “will create lasting generational change” and “set out a clear pathway” for the future on how residential buildings should be constructed and maintained. On behalf of the Government, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick has outlined the next key step in an extensive overhaul for building safety legislation, giving residents more power to hold builders and developers to account and toughening sanctions against those who threaten their safety.
The Building Safety Regulator will oversee the new regime and ultimately be responsible for ensuring that any building safety risks in new and existing high-rise residential buildings of 18 metres and above are effectively managed and resolved, taking cost into account.
This will include implementing specific gateway points at design, construction and completion phases to ensure that safety is considered at each and every stage of a building’s construction and that safety risks are considered at the earliest stage of the planning process.
These changes will simplify the existing system to ensure that high standards are continuously met, with a ‘golden thread’ of information created, stored and updated throughout the building’s lifecycle, establishing clear obligations on owners and enabling swift action to be taken by the Building Safety Regulator wherever necessary.
Robert Jenrick stated: “This Bill will ensure high standards of safety for people’s homes, and in particular for high-rise buildings, with a new regulator providing essential oversight at every stage of a building’s lifecycle, from design and construction through to completion to occupation.”
Jenrick continued: “The new building safety regime will be a proportionate one, ensuring those buildings requiring remediation are brought to an acceptable standard of safety on a swift footing and reassuring the clear majority of residents and leaseholders in those buildings that their homes are safe.”
The reforms will tackle bad practice head on, building on Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, which highlighted an overriding need for significant cultural and regulatory change.
Detail of the proposals
Under the proposals, the Government is more than doubling the amount of time – from six to 15 years, in fact – during which residents can seek compensation for sub-standard construction work. The changes will apply retrospectively. This means that residents of a building completed in 2010 would be able to bring proceedings against the developer until 2025.
These reforms also include new measures which apply to those seeking compensation for shoddy refurbishments which render a given home not fit for living in.
New measures in the Building Safety Bill will:
*ensure there are clearly identified people responsible for safety during the design, build and occupation of a high-rise residential building.
*establish a Building Safety Regulator to hold to account those who break the rules and are not properly managing building safety risks, including taking enforcement action where needed
*give residents in these buildings more routes to raise concerns about safety and mechanisms to ensure their concerns will be heard and taken seriously
*extend rights to compensation for sub-standard workmanship and unacceptable defects
*drive the culture change needed across the industry to enable the design and construction of high-quality and safe homes in the years ahead
Lord Stephen Greenhalgh, the Minister for Building and Fire Safety, explained: “The comprehensive steps we are taking will ensure that industry and the regulatory system fully address the concerns raised in the ‘Building a Safer Future’ report prepared by Dame Judith Hackitt. Though the overall risk of fire across all buildings remains low, we cannot be complacent. Our more robust regime will adopt a proportionate and risk-based approach to remediation and other safety risks.”
Lord Greenhalgh also said: “By increasing our measures of enforcement, we will make sure that the industry follows the rules and, importantly, is held to account when it doesn’t.”
The Bill encompasses powers to strengthen the regulatory framework for construction products, underpinned by a market surveillance and enforcement regime led nationally by the Office for Product Safety and Standards. The national regulator will be able to remove products from the market that present safety risks and prosecute or use civil penalties against any business that breaks the rules and compromises public safety.
The Bill also contains measures to protect leaseholders by providing a legal requirement for building owners to explore alternative ways in which to meet remediation costs before passing these on to leaseholders, along with evidence that this has been done.
This builds on the Government’s commitment to fully fund the cost of replacing unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings of 18 metres high and over in England, with an unprecedented £5 billion investment in building safety. This is alongside the introduction of a new levy and the introduction of a tax to ensure that industry pays its fair share towards the costs of cladding remediation work.
Developers will also be required to join (and remain members of) the New Homes Ombudsman scheme. This will require them to provide redress to a homebuyer, including through the awarding of compensation. Developers who breach the requirement to belong to the New Homes Ombudsman may receive additional sanctions.
Dame Judith Hackitt, chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, commented: “I am delighted that we have reached this important milestone for the Building Safety Bill. It is vital that we focus on making sure the system is right for the future and set new standards for building safety. Residents and other stakeholders need to have their confidence in high-rise buildings restored. Those who undertake such construction projects must be held to account for delivering safe buildings.