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Time To Act: New Legal Responsibilities For Those Who Develop, Own Or Manage High-Rise Residential Buildings


New legislation makes clear the legal responsibilities that owners of high-rise residential buildings now have and the consequences if they fail to comply with them.

From 1 October, the director of any organisation that owns a residential building over 18 metres in height or seven storeys tall — whether that is a fund, property company or other investor — will be personally liable for the safety of those who occupy it.

This is just one measure contained in the Building Safety Act 2022 that was enacted in April last year, Catalyst Head of Building Safety UK Jessica Oliver said. The act has been described as the biggest change in building safety in a generation and affects all buildings, not just high-rise buildings.

Bisnow spoke to Oliver about what the Building Safety Act 2022 means for the property industry and the steps businesses need to take to comply. 

Bisnow: What is the Building Safety Act 2022 and what does it call for? 

Oliver: Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017, the UK government commissioned an independent review of building regulations and fire safety led by Dame Judith Hackett. Among other things, her report, entitled Building a Safer Future, highlighted the need for more effective regulation. This led directly to the Building Safety Act.

Part of the act establishes a new Building Safety Regulator within the Health and Safety Executive with responsibility for securing the safety of people in or about buildings and improving the standard of buildings. The regulator is also the building control authority for higher-risk buildings and has responsibility for regulating building control approvers and building inspectors of all other buildings. 

A lot of the detail of how the new regime will operate in practice is being defined in secondary legislation. The latest tranche included details of procedures that now need to be followed in order to obtain building control approval for a higher-risk building, as well as information about what needs to be provided to the regulator for occupied buildings. This includes the safety case report, mandatory occurrence reporting and a residents’ engagement strategy.

Bisnow: How has the act impacted the property industry?

Oliver: The act has created massive change. While it didn’t change the functional requirements of building regulations, it puts in place a regime that is far more stringent. 

One of the biggest changes relates to the information that needs to be submitted and approved by the regulator before you can start construction. Under the new regime, if you are constructing a new higher-risk building, or doing work to an existing one, you have to submit the required design information and a number of accompanying documents. The regulator has 12 weeks to approve them or eight weeks if it’s for work to an existing HRB. 

This will need to be factored into construction programmes in future. And during construction any major changes to the approved design will need to be submitted and approved by the regulator. 

There’s also a much greater focus on the responsibility of the client to ensure that there are suitable arrangements in place for planning, managing and monitoring the project and that those they appoint are competent.

Bisnow: What is the regulator aiming to achieve with these requirements?

Oliver: The main aim is to ensure that buildings are designed, built and managed safely and that there is an up to date and accurate record of building information that is maintained throughout a building’s life cycle, which is what is meant by the golden thread.  

Previously, changes might have been documented sporadically, if at all, so information wasn’t necessarily passed on when a building changed hands. New building owners might not be aware of the risks or safety measures put in place. 

Bisnow: How does the act impact building owners specifically?

Oliver: In short, it makes them personally liable. Part 4 of the act focuses on occupied higher-risk buildings, specifically who is accountable. It has created a new dutyholder — the accountable person — which in a lot of cases is the building owner. That person or organisation is responsible for the safety of residents in the occupied building. 

An important aspect is that by 1 October, it is their duty to register high-risk buildings with details of the building height, number of residents and year of construction. They must also provide key building information about the structure and fire safety within 28 days of registration. If they miss these deadlines, the building owner, or accountable person, could face an unlimited fine and up to two years in prison.  

We’re doing a lot of work now with funds and investors to make sure that they’re aware of and meeting their duties. 

Bisnow: How has the property industry reacted to the act and secondary legislation as it has emerged?

Oliver: At the moment, the picture is mixed. Whilst some building owners have caught on and are doing the right thing, there are still a lot who are waiting to be told what to do. But the clock is ticking and the deadline for registration of existing high-risk buildings is looming. 

Overall, I think that developers are trying to embrace the changes introduced by the act. They see that the additional measures are generally the right way to do things — to coordinate all elements before construction.

But there are people who say that it’s too hard and won’t work. Adding a 12-week hiatus into a programme ahead of construction could have a huge impact on viability. And it’s worth remembering that there’s another 12-week approval period at completion and until this has been passed, the building cannot be registered and occupied.

But a terrible event occurred in 2017 and we all need to learn. This regime might not be perfect the first time, but if the industry engages and tries to comply, we can all make it work.

This article was produced in collaboration between Catalyst and Studio B. Bisnow news staff was not involved in the production of this content.

Studio B is Bisnow’s in-house content and design studio. To learn more about how Studio B can help your team, reach out to