A new building safety regime – at last!
It’s been a long time coming but today we finally know the detail of the Building Safety Bill. The proposed legislation is the result of a huge amount of work by the property and construction industries towards a new building safety regime for high-rise residential buildings, and it is based on Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendations in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.
The Bill, when enacted, will impact everyone in the construction process from design to completion as well as bringing in new responsibilities for those of us who manage buildings. Residents too will be affected and they will be given new rights under the Bill.
Key points are:
- There will be clearly identified people responsible for safety during the design, build and occupation of high-rise blocks – defined as those above 18m in height.
- A Building Safety Regulator will hold to account those who break the rules and are not properly managing building safety risks, including taking enforcement action where needed.
- Residents in high-rise blocks will have more routes to raise concerns about safety, and there will be new mechanisms to ensure their voices are heard and taken seriously.
- Rights to compensation for substandard workmanship and unacceptable defects in new homes will be extended from six to 15 years – and these changes will apply retrospectively.
The Bill also includes powers to strengthen the regulatory framework for construction products, which will be supported by a new market surveillance and enforcement regime led by the Office for Product Safety and Standards(OPSS).
We hope the new legislation will break down the culture that has existed for far too long in our industry, whereby different teams of people often work in silos with little communication or shared responsibility. The Bill has the potential to help diffuse our too-strongly entrenched culture of blame and could bring about a climate of openness and transparency that facilitates mediated outcomes rather than legal challenges. It is vital for homeowners to be able to avoid situations where developers lawyer-up and outspend leaseholders – leaving the problems unresolved.
This is a new regime that we fully support – particularly the inclusion of the New Homes Ombudsman in the Bill. This new Regulator is much needed to take the heat off Managing Agents and provide a truly independent route to resolution for the smaller grumbles where, despite an honest and open approach property managers are expected to have magic fairy dust to solve problems and are too often scapegoated when they don't.
When it does, finally, see the light of day, we hope that the New Homes Ombudsman will be an affordable way to resolve disputes – like the FTT where fees can be capped – unlike the courts where few leaseholders have sufficient funding to be able to take on a developer. We also hope that support for the new Regulator will be a badge that all quality developers wear with pride.
Author : Maryanne Bowring
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