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Recently, a key piece of legislation has been passed that will change the property industry and, above all, the quality of work carried out on properties far and wide.

Those working in the industry will inevitably be affected by the changes, including building surveyors, property inspectors, property managers and even landlords, so it’d be wise to stay up-to-date with the contents and changes of the Building Safety Act 2022

What does the Building Safety Act 2022 include? 

Passed in April earlier this year, the Building Safety Act 2022 is meant to help protect people living or working in buildings and is meant, first and foremost, as a safety protocol within these buildings. In addition, the Act is intended to provide fair and equitable situations to all involved, not simply put the sole responsibility on any specific person. But since the last Building Safety Act amendments, how have we got to where we are now?

How Grenfell changed the Building Safety Act

On June 14th, 2017, at around 1:00 am, a fire broke out in a West London apartment tower. The fire burned for two hours as onlookers watched in disbelief. Sadly, many residents didn’t make it, in part due to the ‘stay put’ fire policy. Supposedly, the dwelling units were designed to contain fires until official help could arrive. This erroneous information led to the loss of 72 lives. 

Since then, the law has been meant to protect leaseholders against unnecessary responsibility for rehabilitating or repairing issues in or on a building. In the past, building owners were able to charge leaseholders for any costs related to changes to the exterior of the building.

That has now been eliminated from the Building Safety Act, with extensive protection added against other non-cladding costs as well. The costs are now capped based on the amount of the leaseholds and generally range from £10,000 to £15,000. However, depending on the price of the property, the costs can go up to £50,000 per annum, but no more.

In the case of new builds, there now needs to be a mandatory warranty of 15 years. That means developers will need to fix defects and they will receive penalties for not adhering to these new rules. In addition, buildings at increasing risk, such as high-rise buildings, have resulted in a new role requirement known as the Building Safety Regulator. This will come into place to ensure that everything is built to standard with the right competencies.

What is the new Building Safety Regulator role?

The new role to be created is known as the Building Safety Regulator (BSR). The BSR will be in charge of several duties related to building safety and its primary objective will be the protection of people both in the building and around it. In addition, there’s the mission to improve the buildings’ standards. 

This organisation will operate to a strict set of governing principles surrounding transparency. Through this transparency, there’s an emphasis on accountability and only sanctioning regulatory activities when those actions are deemed necessary. 

Under sections 5 and 6, the BSR will outline the safety and standard of buildings under review to support those in the built environment industry and improve the competencies of registered building inspectors. 

The government and the BSR will be working closely together, as referenced in section 8, to build out a systemic collection and analysis of information related to building safety. 

The BSR rounds out its duties with the establishment of several communities, such as the Building Advisory Committee, as a replacement for the Building Regulations Advisory Committee. There will also be the establishment of a Committee on Industry Competence and a refresh of the Residents Panel – to hear appropriate issues and complaints from the residents themselves.

Why is the Building Safety Act 2022 important? 

There have been too many instances in the past of shoddy construction work and not enough effort to take the time to expose or look out for these risks. The Act helps to put the appropriate measures into place and establish clear responsibilities for all parties involved. 

For example, there have been instances where cladding was used in the construction, specifically for student accommodation, and then the leaseholders became accountable for the remedial work when it was truly up to the organisations who owned and managed those buildings in the first place. The Act is meant to now go after those who had created the defective work in the first place, and those that do not remedy the issues will face criminal prosecution. 

The liabilities that can lead to such a prosecution are as follows and are only meant as guidelines. The first is the failure to comply with a cladding product requirement concerning said cladding and/or other defective construction. Another area is a misleading statement when supplying or advertising the defective construction and subpar cladding produced. Finally, anyone who knowingly makes such a defective product will now be held liable and accountable. 

How the Building Act of 1984 has been revised

The Building Act of 1984 helped to set a framework for building control systems. With the current Act in place, it will end up expanding the overall scope of the Building Act to apply to all building work and not just be restricted to high-rise residential buildings. In addition, there are some issues of concern with the existing regulatory and compliance scheme set in motion that the Act will help to improve. 

The 15-year limit has been extended to 30 years under the new Act, so leaseholders can now take legal action on historic fire safety issues to lay claims against contractors or developers who were known to build properties that are now deemed unsafe.

In addition, those that fall under the category of duty holders will now need to have a clear accountability and breakdown of responsibilities with any new building designs or construction, including refurbishments. 

What is the expanded building safety levy? 

The building safety levy is already going through a consultation that will end in February 2023. The initial part was drafted so that the burden wouldn’t fall solely on the leaseholders to handle any historical building defects, offering procedures to obtain additional support.

Earlier in the year, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities made a clear statement to include a commitment of £5.1 billion from taxes to fix these problems. 

Yet the Act expanded the scope of the levy to include residential buildings that would require building control approval. When this came into law, the DLUHC would commit £2 billion from existing home builders and £3 million from the expanded levy itself. The £3 billion will be injected over the course of the next 10 years. Failure to pay this levy will lead to sanctions and stop the final certification for the building from coming out, preventing any development progress. 

Other items to consider are that some buildings are completely exempt from the scope of the expanded levy, specifically centred around community buildings such as NHS Hospitals, affordable homes, and residential care homes. Developments with less than ten residential units are also exempt. 

There are two options for calculations, which are either per square metre or per dwelling unit. The rate itself is set based on local authorities who are also responsible for the collection of the levies based on a mix of house prices and land values, as well as direct foreign investment coming in. The local authorities will also collect in two stages in case they need to put up a sanction for a stop notice. 

Staying compliant

The Act has introduced an extensive list of changes that impact numerous parties related to buildings, from the design and construction all the way to habitation. With that said, it’s going to be a gradual and staged approach, so you want to make sure that wherever you are involved in this ecosystem, you have the right up-to-date information at all times. 

For those involved in these major construction or development companies, you’ll want to consider working with the right team to ensure that you’re covered down the line. Contact us today and we’ll help your organisation build out a compliant, streamlined, digitised operation, so you can focus on what you do best without having to worry about compliance.

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