Landmark Building Safety Law to Keep Residents Safe

The government is set to publish its landmark Bill to deliver the biggest changes to building safety for nearly 40 years and make residents safer in their homes

The government is set to publish its landmark Bill to deliver the biggest changes to building safety for nearly 40 years and make residents safer in their homes.

The Building Safety Bill, to be published in draft form on Monday (20 July 2020), will improve regulations as the government seeks to bring forward a clearer system with residents’ safety at the heart of it.

Residents have helped to develop the proposals through engagement groups, and under the new rules, people living in high rise buildings will be empowered to challenge inaction from their building owner and have better access to safety information about their building and will benefit from a swift and effective complaints process.

A Building Safety Regulator, already being set up within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), will be fully established and equipped with the power to hold building owners to account or face the consequences. 

It will enforce a new, more stringent set of rules that will apply for buildings of 18 metres or more or taller than six storeys from the design phase to occupation.

The government views the Draft Bill as legislation that will evolve as further evidence and risks are identified to ensure that residents’ safety is always prioritised and will also provide new powers to better regulate construction materials and products to ensure they are safe to use.

Government expert Michael Wade has been asked to work with leaseholders, and the finance and insurance industries. He will test and recommend funding solutions to protect leaseholders from unaffordable costs of fixing historic defects, ensuring that the burden does not fall on tax payers. He will also develop proposals to address insurance issues around building safety.

The draft Bill includes a new ‘building safety charge’ to give leaseholders greater transparency around costs incurred in maintaining a safe building – with numerous powers deliberately included to limit the costs that can be re-charged to leaseholders.

It comes as the government will also publish a consultation on Monday, which sets out proposals to implement the recommendations from Phase One of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry that require a change in law. The consultation will also look at strengthening fire safety in all regulated buildings in England to ensure that people are safe from fire regardless of where they live, stay or work. Taken with the draft Bill, these measures will improve the safety of residents in buildings of all heights.

Housing Secretary Rt Hon Robert Jenrick MP said:

This is a significant milestone on our journey to fundamentally improving building safety and delivering real change that will keep people safer in their homes.
I remain committed to making sure we get this right, which is why I will be publishing the draft Bill for scrutiny and improvement before it is introduced in Parliament.
I am also calling on the industry to actively prepare for these changes now. It is vital that the sector moves in step with us, to provide confidence and reassurance to residents that their safety is firmly at the heart of everything we do.

Building Safety and Fire Minister Lord Greenhalgh said:

As a government we are determined to learn the lessons from that fateful night at Grenfell Tower and ensure that a tragedy like this does not happen again.
These are the biggest changes to building safety legislation for nearly 40 years, and they will raise standards across the industry and ensure building owners have nowhere to hide if they break the rules.
Consulting on key recommendations from the Inquiry and wider changes to fire safety regulation will give those affected the opportunity to make their voices heard and help us implement lasting, significant change.

Independent advisor and author of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, Dame Judith Hackitt said:

I welcome this draft Bill as an important milestone in delivering the fundamental reform this industry needs to make residents and buildings safer.
It meets the ambitions and recommendations set out in my review.
And industry must be in no doubt that it is not enough to wait for the Bill to become law before they implement changes; we expect them to start taking action now.

The government is also announcing that full applications for the £1 billion Building Safety Fund, to remove unsafe non-ACM cladding from buildings, can be submitted from 31 July - with 747 registration forms processed since 1 June. 

To also ensure that building owners are clear on which steps they need to take to ensure the building is safe, we will also publish a new Manual to the Building Regulations which contains all Approved Documents in one place.

Further Information

The Bill

The draft Bill is a large and complex piece of legislation which is why the government is publishing it on Monday for pre-legislative scrutiny before introducing it to Parliament.

As recommended by Dame Judith Hackitt in her Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, the draft Bill will introduce more stringent rules for all blocks of flats that are either 18 metres or more in height or more than six storeys tall. This is because evidence demonstrates that the fire risk of a building increases with height, and it is right that we start with taller blocks of flats where the risk is deemed greatest in order to protect the greatest number of people. The threshold for buildings to be subject to these rules will be kept under review in case it needs to be adapted in future to cover more buildings.

The regulator will have 3 main functions: to oversee the safety and standard of all buildings, directly assure the safety of higher-risk buildings; and improve the competence of people responsible for managing and overseeing building work.   

We have also published a document on GOV.UK that seeks to explain the document in further detail.

Building Safety Regulator

Later this year, the Health and Safety Executive is expected to launch the recruitment for the first ever Chief Inspector of Buildings in England, who will lead the regulator.

The HSE will also take over as chair of the government’s Joint Regulators Group which advises the government on ways to strengthen the regulatory regime; and take over the Independent Expert Advisory Panel, which provides advice for the government on fire safety high-rise residential buildings.

The government is providing £16.4 million for HSE this year to recruit staff and develop its capabilities so the regulator can hit the ground running when the powers come into effect.

Fire safety consultation

The Home Office will publish a fire safety consultation on Monday (20 July 2020). This will gather views on proposals to implement the recommendations from Phase 1 of the Grenfell Tower Inquiry that require a change in law; strengthen the Fire Safety Order and improve compliance: and improve fire safety in all regulated buildings in England.

The proposals focus on a number of areas, including providing residents with greater assurance and fire safety improvements in buildings; driving effective and sustainable operational outcomes for fire fighters; and enabling better identification of responsible persons, such as building owners and managers.

The government is seeking the views of people from key groups, including those that have been most affected by the fire, residents of high rise and multi-occupancy buildings, building owners and managers and fire and rescue services. 

In addition to the consultation, the Fire Safety Bill is also currently making its way through Parliament. This Bill will deliver on the Inquiry’s Phase 1 recommendations by empowering fire and rescue services to take enforcement action and hold building owners to account if they are not compliant with the law.