As the Building Safety Bill1 makes its way through Parliament1, owners and managers of high-rise residential buildings (HRBs), those defined as being more than 18m high and at least 7 storeys tall, are getting a clearer picture of what they need to so to prepare for new responsibilities.
If your building is one of the estimated 12,500 that fall into this category, it is of course more than likely that managing agents will be employed. Nevertheless, if you, or a legal entity you direct, are the owner then you will still have new responsibilities.
The Act, when given the Royal Assent creates a number of new roles, principle among these being that of ‘Accountable Persons’ (APs), and is expected that their obligations will come into force later this year or by early 2023.
The Accountable Person (Principal Accountable Person if duties are shared in larger premises), is responsible for ensuring that fire and structural safety is being properly managed for the whole building.
It could be an individual such as a building owner, but they are more likely to be a corporate entity, such as a management company or a managing agent that takes on the role across a portfolio of properties. One of their key responsibilities will be to appoint a Building Safety Manager (BSM) for the day-to-day management of building safety, and to be the official point of contact for residents.
Both AP and BSM are complex jobs and it’s possible that property agents will upskill fill this void across a portfolio of properties, but those in ultimate control of the building will have to ensure that their appointees are competent.
The Accountable Person’s obligations are intended to come into force within 12 to 18 months of the Bill receiving Royal Assent. We therefore expect this to take place from the middle of 2022 to early 2023. Now is the time to start thinking about how your building will comply, if you haven’t started already, not least because there will be a lot of information to gather. You can find out more and sign up for email alters here2.
The AP will be responsible for collating detailed, accurate information when registering the building with the new Building Safety Register3 and then keeping that information up to date. The authors of the Bill describe a golden thread of information, with safety considered at every stage of a building’s lifetime, from the earliest stage of the planning process through decades of occupation, repairs and refurbishments.
It’s possible that property agents will upskill to fill the new dutyholder roles, but ultimately those in overall ownership and control of the building will have to ensure that those they appoint are competent.
What about buildings below 18 metres?
The government has reduced the height threshold for requiring sprinkler systems in new residential buildings.
The Fire Safety Act 20214 clarifies the Fire Safety Order 20055 (FSO) applies to the external walls (including balconies and windows) and flat entrance doors in blocks of flats. In the past is was generally been considered, that the communal areas were limited to internal parts of such premises including halls, corridors, roof voids and stairwells. Under the 2021 Act, external walls including doors, windows and anything attached to those walls (such as balconies or cladding) are now covered by the provisions of the FSO.
The Act also clarifies that doors between individual flats which lead into common parts also fall within the scope of the FSO, although in practice most fire assessors have treated them as such anyway.
Other Regulations to implement the Grenfell Tower Inquiry Phase 1 are planned and some will apply to multi-occupied residential buildings below 18 metres.
The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited (Gallagher) trading as Deacon accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.