The government has today published in draft 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 aims to improve regulations as the government seeks to bring forward a clearer system with residents’ safety at the heart of it.

What this means for the Finishes and Interiors Sector

  • The Bill ensures that those responsible for the safety of residents are to be accountable for and must correct any mistakes
  • The references to high rise buildings refers to those 18m or higher
  • The appointment of a new National Regulator for building safety within the Health & Safety Executive who will have three main functions to:
    • Oversee the safety and standard of all buildings
    • Directly assure the safety of higher-risk buildings
    • Improve the competence of those responsible for managing and overseeing building work
  • A more stringent set of rules or high-rise residential buildings will operate covering design, construction and occupation
  • A responsible person will be appointed for managing potential risk
  • A building will need to be registered with the Building Safety Regulator and before residents move in will need to apply for a Building Assurance Certificate
  • Building inspectors responsible for signing off a building as being safe for people to live in will also have to follow these new rules and must register with the Regulator
  • Government will have new powers to better regulate construction materials and products and ensure they are safe to use.
  • Clients must set up a system where onsite workers can report potential structural and fire safety issues

What to expect from the new Building Safety Regulator

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.  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.

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.  Tough new enforcement powers will see the time limit for both prosecution for non-compliance with building regulations and correction of defects extended from 2 to 10 years.  Both individuals and companies will be liable to prosecution.

Failure to adhere to compliance or stop notices or the provision of misleading information to the regulator will be a criminal offence, with a maximum penalty of up to two years in prison and an unlimited fine.

 What are the next steps

The draft Bull has been released for scrutiny before it is passed into law by Government, but Government have been clear that they view 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 also publish a consultation 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.

Iain McIlwee, CEO Finishes and Interiors Sector said:

This much anticipated Bill marks the next step for the Construction Sector we cannot delay further, whilst the industry has time and time again been told not to wait for regulation and major strides have been made, the truth is, without the safety net of regulation, the unscrupulous will still cut corners and undermine those striving to be better.

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 draft Building Safety Bill can be downloaded here

A document has also been published on GOV.UK that seeks to explain the document in further detail.