Today’s draft Building Safety Bill has been a long time coming. But we hope it will be a major step forward in improving levels of safety in residential blocks. The new legislation is based on the recommendations of Dame Judith Hackitt’s building safety review, which was carried out in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017. The Government accepted the review’s recommendations in full and today’s draft Bill, which sits alongside the Fire Safety Bill published in March, sets out how they will be taken forward.
For leaseholders, the proposals will mean big changes to the way safety in your block is managed and regulated.
- A new role of the ‘Accountable Person’ will be created to make sure there will always be someone responsible for keeping residents safe in high rise buildings – blocks that are 18 metres high and above. Whoever takes on this role will also have to listen and respond to residents’ concerns and ensure their voices are heard.
- A new national regulator for building safety is being created within the Health and Safety Executive. This new regulator will ensure that high rise buildings and their residents are being kept safe; it will have new powers to raise and enforce higher standards of safety and performance across all buildings. The regulator will appoint a panel of residents who will have a voice in the development of its work.
- In future residents and leaseholders will be given access to safety information about their building so that they can have an input and ensure any issues they raise are listened to.
- There will be new complaints handling requirements to make sure effective action is taken when concerns are raised.
- A new ‘building safety charge’ will make it easy for leaseholders to see and know what they are being charged for when it comes to keeping their building safe. But, to make sure that these costs are affordable, the costs that can be re-charged to leaseholders will be limited.
- For the first time, new build homebuyers will have their right to complain to a New Homes Ombudsman, protected in legislation, and developers will be required to be a member of the scheme. The New Homes Ombudsman will hold developers to account and will have the ability to require developers to pay compensation.
We welcome the new Bill and we are also pleased to hear the Government’s stated commitment today “to making sure that leaseholders won’t pay unaffordable costs for historic repairs to their buildings”. The Government says it will continue to engage with stakeholders, including leaseholders, on this issue while the draft Bill is being scrutinised by Parliament. It has also committed to “speeding up work with the finance and insurance industries, to protect leaseholders from unaffordable costs of fixing historic defects, but without relying on taxpayers’ money”. And recently raised insurance issues around building safety will also be tackled.
This is all good news. Let’s now hope the government can deliver all it is promising without delay. It has been three years since Grenfell. Leaseholders in blocks around the country badly need action – they can’t afford to wait any longer.
You can read the new Building Safety Bill in full on the Government website here.