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Draft Building Safety Bill - room for improvement?

The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee have published a report setting out its recommendations to the government on the draft Building Safety Bill.

The report concludes that the draft Bill is welcomed and is “a profoundly important step towards remedying the flaws in the building safety regime”. However, the report highlights concern about some of the provisions and “the lack of detail on key parts of the new regime”.

The Committee’s report outlines a number of recommendations, including the following:

  • Further detail needed – The report states that further detail is needed to properly scrutinise the provisions of the draft Bill for core provisions such as the Gateway process and the regulation of construction projects. At present there is an over-emphasis on secondary legislation that will contain much of the detail of the new regulatory regime but which has not yet been published. The report urges the government to include further detail in the Bill itself or for the secondary legislation to be published alongside the Bill. This is essential to provide certainty as to how the new regime will work in practice.
  • Timescale for transition – The report recommends that a timetable is published with the Bill so the industry has a clear timescale for the implementation of the new responsibilities.
  • Funding for historical building safety remediation works – The report states that the provisions relating to the new building safety charge “permit landlords to charge leaseholders for the cost of remediating historical building safety defects for which they were not responsible”. This includes the removal of dangerous cladding. The report recommends that the draft Bill is amended so that historical costs are explicitly excluded from the building safety charge.  The report is clear that leaseholders should not bear these costs but recognises the question of how this remediation work should be funded remains unresolved. The report states that “It seems self-evident that responsibility for funding remediation works lies jointly with the industry and the Government”. Before the Bill is published, the report recommends that the government should announce how it proposes funding historical building safety remediation works and recommends “that in the short term the Government must foot the bill, until such time as mechanisms for cost recovery have been developed”.
  • Higher-risk buildings – The draft Bill sets out the provisions for new regulations that will apply during the design and construction of higher-risk buildings. The explanatory notes to the draft Bill state the current proposal is that higher-risk buildings would cover multi-occupied residential buildings of 18 metres or more in height, or more than six storeys (whichever is reached first). The report recommends that this is expanded in the future to factor in other risks including “the vulnerability of residents and their ability to evacuate the building”.
  • Accreditation to ensure competence – The report recommends the final Bill should include provisions to establish a system of  third-party accreditation and registration for all professionals working on the design and construction of higher-risk buildings stating “We can think of few measures that will do more to improve building safety”. In addition, the report recommends that the government confirms the competency framework it intends to adopt for the role of Building Safety Manager. This will enable the industry to recruit people to fill the role and ensure they have the requisite training. The report also recommends that there is a system of accreditation and registration for Building Safety Managers.
  • Choice of building control body – The Hackitt report identified that the ability of dutyholders to choose their own building control body led to conflicts of interest. The draft Bill removes dutyholder’s choice from the building control system for work on higher-risk buildings but the report recommends going further so that the dutyholder’s choice is removed from all building work and is replaced by a system of independent appointment.

Next steps?

There is considerable work to be done to improve on the detail of the Bill to end the current uncertainty for leaseholders and drive real change in the way in which building safety is both managed and enforced. The government must now respond to the recommendations made in the report. This response and the further detail contained in secondary legislation will be awaited with interest. Once the draft Bill is finalised, it is expected to progress through Parliament next year. However, it is unclear at this stage when the draft Bill will become law or when the new regime will be fully implemented.

Disclaimer

This information is for educational purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given.

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