We have closely monitored the development of the Building Safety Bill which gained Royal Assent in April and is now the Building Safety Act, with a large proportion of the Act’s provisions coming into force last month (June 2022).
The Building Safety Act will have significant impact on any schemes developed by any social housing provider moving forward. Key areas where these impacts will be felt include:
- The Act gives the Architects Registration Board powers to monitor the training and development of architects to ensure that competence is maintained
- The Act is designed to introduce a more rigorous system of collecting and collating information, as well as accountability, meaning that all data generated at all stages of a development – from planning, through design and construction, and into occupation and operation – must be archived in the building’s mandatory “Golden Thread of Information.” This information will also include the building’s safety cases, i.e. a report which identifies the building’s major fire and structural hazards, as well as details of the Accountable Persons involved in the building’s development and operation.
- All of this information is inextricably linked to the Building Safety Regulator issuing formal certification indicating that the building is fit to occupy.
- The new Regulator also assumes responsibility for the registration and professional standards of Building Control officers.
- The Act introduces new rights for building owners to take action against the manufacturers of defective construction products.
- The Act introduces protections designed to reduce the liability of leaseholders for the costs of remediation of unsafe cladding.
- The Act introduces the requirement for information to be provided to the Regulator at three key Gateways:
- Planning – where the applicant must submit information verifying that they have considered fire risks within their proposals
- Pre-construction – where construction cannot begin until the Regulator is satisfied that it will be carried out in accordance with the Building Regulations and
- Completion – where the regulator will carry out a final inspection to determine that works have been carried out in accordance with the Building Regulations before issuing a certificate to allow occupation.
In addition, developers now have to ensure that:
- Staff understand and comply with the new requirements and are competent to be duty holders
- Suppliers provide compliant materials
- Software is in place to maintain and access the ‘golden thread’ easily
- Clear and robust communication protocols are in place.
The Building Safety Act actually represents a number of positive outcomes for our clients, and will prove to be of benefit to housing providers and their residents.
- The increased powers for the Architects Registration Board offers an added degree of quality assurance when assessing the competencies of architects tasked with designing a new scheme.
- The Act will enable clients to act against manufacturers who supply a construction product which fails to comply with requirements, has been mis-sold, is inherently defective, or which causes homes to be unfit for habitation.
- The Act extends the liability period for breaches of S38 of the Building Act to 15 years. This broadens the timeframe within which housing providers can claim against a contractor for defective work should it be necessary. Should remedial works be required for any reason after handover and occupation, the building owner will no longer be responsible for funding this work after the building is 6 years old, as was previously the case.
- This extension has been applied retroactively, meaning that building owners can claim against the original developer/contractor for any defective property that was built after 2007.
- While Leaseholders have now been given protection against obligation to pay for the replacement of defective cladding, the extension of S38 of the Building Act and the liabilities of manufacturers of defective materials means that this burden has not necessarily fallen upon the freeholder or building landlord.