In response to fast-approaching deadlines, landlords and operators must meet fresh obligations under the Building Safety Act 2022 and Fire Safety (England) Regulations 2022. These create a new regulatory regime for high-risk residential buildings.
Steven Rodd, Partner in our Building Consultancy team and head of Workman’s Fire Safety Group, explains the new rules…
What is the Building Safety Act 2022?
The Act is intended to improve both building safety and ongoing resident communication with leaseholders. It introduces new legal requirements, roles and responsibilities for the registration, document submission and ongoing resident engagement of these residential buildings.
The register for such assets opened on 6 April 2023 and the deadline for registering existing occupied high-rise buildings under the direction and control of the Building Safety Regulator is 1st October 2023.
Which buildings are affected by the new rules?
The Regulations apply to all new and existing buildings in England over 18 metres or seven storeys in height which contain at least two residential units. These are defined as “higher risk” buildings, for which there is a new regulatory system for the management of building safety. According to government estimates, there are 12,500 existing buildings which fall under this new regime and require registering.
Who is responsible?
For relevant buildings, Accountable Persons (AP) and a Principal Accountable Person (PAP) will need to be identified. The PAP can be an individual, a partnership or a company. It may be the building owner but not necessarily, while the building operator would be an AP in the case of Purpose-Built Student Accommodation (PBSA).
Where there is more than one Accountable Person, they and the PAP will have a duty to cooperate with each other.
What are the obligations for the Principal Accountable Person?
The new duties of the PAP and Accountable Persons include the registration of existing occupied high-rise buildings by 1 October 2023. Additionally, creating the Building Safety Case Report which includes the all-important resident engagement strategy.
The Building Safety Case Report will, on request, require submission to the new Building Safety Regulator (BSR) from April 2024. This role sits within the existing Health and Safety Executive (HSE), and will seek to uphold new objectives and functions. From October 2023, the BSR will become the new building control authority for high-rise residential buildings.
In addition to these requirements, property owners and accommodation operators must fulfil property management obligations. It will also will be a statutory requirement for a resident engagement strategy to be produced for each high-rise building.
What should be included in a Building Safety Case Report?
Building Safety Case Reports should describe building’ safety information in full, detailing how the building safety risks should be managed.
These include the materials used in construction, number of occupants, fire and structural safety systems, emergency plans and preparedness procedures. In addition, how safety has been designed and incorporated into the fabric of the building.
Compiling the report could involve contributions from a number of expert sources and specialists. These include external wall survey, fire door and compartmentation surveys and fire management strategy.
The report must outline the communication of building safety to residents through an engagement strategy, addressing their feedback.
What part does resident engagement and ongoing communication play?
Resident engagement and ongoing communication are major strands running through the new requirements for owners of high-rise residential buildings.
The Regulations included within the Building Safety Act set out a range of responsibilities. These include adopting an engagement strategy that enables residents to participate in decisions about the safety risks in their building.
Specifically, there are requirements relating to the way owners of high-rise buildings and the PAP must engage with residents about the safety of their building, ensuring that they understand fire safety strategies and fire management plans, for example.
What steps should be taken now?
The register opened on April 6, 2023. Landlords’ top priority is to assess their portfolio and determine which assets fall within the scope. Those buildings that do fall within scope must be registered by 1st October 2023. Failure to register within this six-month window could lead to prosecution.
Below is a summary of the steps owners should now take with key deadlines;
The key deadlines to be aware of are:
· 30th September 2023: all 12,500 high-rise residential buildings need to be registered. Registering buildings in scope will be a legal requirement. Owners and managers who fail to comply by October 2023 will be investigated and may face prosecution. From 1st October 2023 developers must apply to BSR for building control approval before commencing building work on any high-rise buildings.
· April 2024: A Building Safety Case Report will need to be completed as from this date the BSR will begin to call in buildings for assessment and issue Building Assessment Certificates. At this point, the requirements related to registration for building inspectors and building control approvers becomes enforceable.
What will the BSR do with the information?
From the registration information supplied, the Building Safety Regulator will prioritise the the higher-risk buildings to be called in for assessment, based on the height of the building and the number of dwellings it contains. The tallest buildings with the greatest number of dwellings are likely to be prioritised first. The regulator will also have the option to prioritise buildings with unremediated ACM cladding, regardless of height or number of dwellings. The regulator aims to assess all buildings for the first time within five years.
When an asset is called in for assessment, the PAP will need to submit the Building Safety Case Report. The regulator will examine these documents and may send an inspector to the building to verify the PAP’s arrangements for managing building safety risks. If satisfied, the regulator will issue a Building Assessment Certificate for the building.
How can Workman help?
Our teams are best-placed to bring together all the information required to satisfy and exceed the new requirements. From fire risk assessment, through external wall assessment. Also, fire strategy and compartmentation surveys, structural assessment and most importantly, resident engagement.
The Building Safety Act emphasises the need for proactive resident engagement. This may already be in place. However, further time and resource may be required from the PAP to prepare and implement a more comprehensive regime.
As detailed in our recent Client Bulletin, our Fire Safety team conducts a comprehensive gap analysis and forensic review of available documentation. Following that, they consult the PAP to discuss the findings and the interim report.
In some areas, the Building Safety Case Report will involve input from specialist consultants, with the holistic overview report prepared by Workman.