The Building Safety Bill's journey to law - and beyond.
On the 28th of April, 2022, The Building Safety Bill (BSB) received Royal Assent, officially making it the Building Safety Act 2022 (Act). Here are some aspects of building safety and compliance that it will transform.
This landmark in building safety was a long time in the making - the tragic events of Grenfell forming the backdrop for the wide, lasting change it is ushering in. This defining piece of legislation is designed to encompass safety across the design, construction and management of buildings.
It is important to note that this legislation was still undergoing considerable amendments leading up to the final days before its release. Parts of the Act have now been enforced, with others following suit towards the end of June and a fully enforced Act in 2023. Here are the key changes, amendments and more.
New liability for construction products.
The Act includes a clause which creates liability for construction products installed on or within residential premises that result in the dwelling becoming unfit for human habitation. This means that construction products must comply with specific conditions for marketing and technical specifications. No misleading statements can be made in relation to these products.
Moreover, the Act empowers anyone with a right or interest in the dwelling to raise a claim against a party that breaches this new stipulation. It will also see the creation of a ‘construction products regulator’ that has the power to remove certain products from the market.
⏱️Time limits: the Act retrospectively increases the time limits pertaining to claims - 15 years for general construction products from the time a building is, or was, completed. For cladding products, this is increased to 30 years.
Human rights clarification.
Of course, liabilities that can be retrospectively imposed bring with them concerns of procedural fairness. The BSB already proposed increasing the limitation period under the Defective Premises Act 1972 from six to 30 years in England and Wales. This allows many more current owners of buildings with defective cladding to bring claims against parties that were responsible for the construction or design of these buildings.
However, a new clause within the amended Act allows the courts to decide whether these claims should be upheld by determining whether they breach a defendant’s human rights, as defined by the European Convention.
Duty to engage with residents.
The Act now imposes a duty on building owners to create and maintain a resident engagement strategy that demonstrates clear opportunities for resident engagement in building-related decision making.
Resident obligations will also come into effect, placing an obligation on them to comply with information requests that facilitate fire safety and to not demonstrate any behaviour that could create safety risks.
The Act notably brings key changes to the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, enabling clearer identification of ‘responsible persons’ for documenting fire safety assessments.
Maintaining a golden thread.
A golden thread of building safety envisions that the integrity and security of a given building is maintained throughout its design and construction.
For example, construction on a building cannot begin until the Building Safety Regulator (Regulator) is satisfied that plans are compliant with building regulations and contain safety regulations that are not beyond reason.
To facilitate this, the Act imposes the duty on developers to create, retain and maintain this golden thread of information, allowing for the relevant people to have access to the right information at the right time when ensuring a building’s safety. All of this must be handed over to the Regulator.
Such compulsory reporting requirements will come into effect 12-18 months from now.
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A new regulator.
The Act has now created a regulatory framework that must ensure the oversight of safety and performance for any residential buildings that are over 18m in height.
The regulatory body created for this purpose will be tasked with ensuring competence amongst registered building inspectors, in addition to setting up residents’ panels and building advice committees that can refine the approach going forward.
For a full timeline of how the Act will shape building safety over next 12 months, and the next 12-18 months, explore the following resources:
- The Building Safety Bill is now law – here’s what you need to know
- Building Safety Bill: Bill receives Royal Assent to become the Building Safety Act
- Building Safety Act 2022 becomes law – retrospective liability in Scotland as in England & Wales?