Building Safety Act: Are you ready?

Thrings lawyer and the building safety act

The long-awaited implementation of the Building Safety Act has finally arrived at the start of this month, resulting in major changes to the built environment industry. Here’s a breakdown on some of the most notable changes.

What buildings are covered by the act?

With the Building Safety Act 2022 (BSA) having been created to reflect the recommendations of the Hackitt report “Building a Safer Future” following the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, High Rise Buildings (HRBs) are the key focus of the legislation. It, however, has far reaching implications for the design and construction safety of all new and existing buildings.

HRB owner/developers and occupiers have particularly onerous obligations within the legislation, including the new legal definitions introduced through the act. To be considered a HRB, the building must be at least 18m/seven storeys high and contain at least two residential units, even if the building is part of a mixed-use development such as a hospital or care home.

Notable highlights

The BSA presents a clear focus on compliance around design and construction safety, with the introduction of three “Gateways” which need to be certified as complete before each development can progress. More information on these can be found in our previous article on the BSA here.

A new Building Safety Regulator (BSR) has also been created to oversee all aspects of the legislation will introduce a central point of responsibility for all regulatory decisions relating to the design and construction safety, including the registration of the ‘accountable person’ that holds the legal obligation to repair any common parts of a building.

As well as creating a range of new responsibilities for developers, the act has also introduced changes that could impact landlords and property owners and occupiers which they need to be aware of.

Secondary legislation

From 1 October, the BSA is fully implemented, incorporating a raft of amendments as well as secondary legislation which was brought forward by the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) in August, including:

  • The Building Regulations etc (Amendment) (England) Regulations 2023 which amends the Building Regulations 2010 to support the new building control regime. These regulations apply to all building work including but are not limited to HRBs;
  • The Building (Higher-Risk Building Procedures) (England) Regulations 2023 which sets out the process for HRBs to comply, specifying the building regulation requirements when an HRB is being designed or work is being done to the building;
  • The Building (Approved Inspectors etc and Review of Decisions) (England) Regulations 2023 which amend the previous legislation to enable the new regulatory to be the only building control authority for all HRBs. Local authorities and approved inspectors will no longer be able to supervise higher risk building works or development;
  • The Higher-Risk Buildings (Management Safety Risks etc) (England) Regulations 2023 which provides more detail into the accountable persons for a building, residents and occupiers of HRBs;
  • The Building Safety Act 2022 (Consequential Amendments etc) Regulations 2023 which amends previous legislation such as the Highways Act to bring these into line with the building control provisions of the BSA, and to align appeals procedures for building control decisions to the same tribunal, overseen by the new regulator.

With the publication of these latest regulations under the BSA, the whole built environment industry is required to make changes and strive to deliver safer buildings for the future.

Complying with the new regulations

With the BSA now in force, existing developments already in progress have until April 2024 to be fully compliant as part of a transitional period. Proposed developments need to have significantly progressed by 6 April 2024 with full plans having been submitted to the local planning authority.

Applications should be submitted to the BSR and building safety regimes should be in place for all relevant buildings as a priority, with documentation collated and maintained digitally to assist compliance. Failure to do so can result in notices being issued by the BSR to carry out corrective action with non-compliance considered a criminal offence and potentially punishable by both fines and imprisonment.

If they haven’t done so already, developers, landlords and property owners should also conduct a full review of their real estate portfolios. This should include checking whether they meet the new criteria for HRBs and identifying the accountable persons for each building.

The new legislation also restricts commencement of building works without regulatory approval. Those in the industry are hoping the process for completing each new Gateway, and compliance with requirements, does not cause delay to construction programmes or add additional cost/ time issues to existing and future projects.

Above all else, those impacted by the BSA need to fully understand the requirements being introduced and the resulting new duties they need to carry out to comply with the legislation. This can be made simpler by seeking robust legal and professional advice, including from the likes of the Royal Institute of Charters Surveyors (RICS).

Thrings’ Construction and Engineering and Residential Property lawyers are well versed in advising those in the industry in navigating ever-changing regulation, with expertise in supporting landlords and developers with property portfolios, investment and transactions. For more information, get in contact today.

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