6 July 2021

UK building safety overhaul – bill published, regulator to be established

The Building Safety Bill, published yesterday will, say the UK government, create lasting change and set out a clear pathway for the future on how residential buildings should be constructed and maintained.

London high-rise
© Alfie Chapman/Unsplash

A Building Safety Regulator will be established to oversee the new regime and will be responsible for ensuring that any building safety risks in new and existing high rise residential buildings of 18m and above are managed and resolved, taking cost into account.

This will include implementing specific gateway points at design, construction and completion phases to ensure that safety is considered at every stage of a building’s construction, and safety risks are considered at the earliest stage of the planning process.      

The government claims the changes will simplify the existing system and provide a ‘golden thread’ of information created, stored and updated throughout the building’s lifecycle, establishing clear obligations on owners and enabling swift action to be taken by the regulator, wherever necessary.

The reforms build on Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, which highlighted a need for significant cultural and regulatory change.

Under the proposals, the government is more than doubling the amount of time, from six to 15 years, that residents can seek compensation for substandard construction work. The changes will apply retrospectively. This means that residents of a building completed in 2010 would be able to bring proceedings against the developer until 2025. Critics argue that this is not a sufficient amount of time.

Minister for Building and Fire Safety Lord Greenhalgh said, ‘By increasing our measures of enforcement, we will make sure industry follows the rules – and is held to account when it doesn’t.’

‘The Bill will include powers to strengthen the regulatory framework for construction products, underpinned by a market surveillance and enforcement regime led nationally by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS). The national regulator will be able to remove products from the market that present safety risks and prosecute or use civil penalties against any business that breaks the rules and compromises public safety.’

Developers will be required to join and remain members of the New Homes Ombudsman scheme, which will require them to provide redress to a homebuyer, including through the awarding of compensation. Developers who breach the requirement to belong to the New Homes Ombudsman may receive additional sanctions.

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