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The Building Safety Bill – time for property managers to prepare

07 September 2021. Published by Alexandra Anderson, Partner and Katharine Cusack, Partner

The way high-rise buildings are managed in this country is changing.

Dame Judith Hackitt's safety recommendations, set out in her report following the Grenfell tragedy, will be implemented in the new Building Safety Bill (BSB).  For further details, please click here for our previous article.   

The BSB introduces a number of regulatory measures for residential buildings and hospitals deemed higher risk (those taller than 18m or 6 storeys).  During the lifecycle of a higher risk building, from the design, through construction/refurbishment and occupation, a new Dutyholder regime will apply.  The thinking behind this is that those who create a building safety risk should, as far as possible, be responsible for managing that risk. 

During occupation, the Dutyholder will be the Accountable Person, which is a new role under the BSB (and there may be more than one such person, in which case a lead will be appointed).  The BSB defines the Accountable Person as "a person who holds a legal estate in possession in any part of the common parts" or, if not legally owned, a person "who is under a relevant repairing obligation in relation to any part of the common parts".  This position may be fulfilled by an individual, partnership or a corporate entity, including a property management company. 

Given the significance of the role, and to ensure success of the regime, enforcement and sanctions will apply for non-compliance among Accountable Persons and also Responsible Persons (i.e. those with control of a property under Article 3 of the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005).  It is therefore important for all property managers to understand the obligations placed on them as a result of the new legislation, to ensure they are ready to comply with its requirements before they come into force.    

The Accountable Person will be under a statutory duty to:

  1. Assess the building safety risks, take reasonable steps to prevent them from arising and limit the severity of any incidents from such a risk on an ongoing basis.
  2. Document, and keep up to date, the steps taken in a "safety case" of evidentiary documentation identifying, managing and mitigating building safety risks; and a "safety case report" summarising and justifying all safety measures in place.
  3. Register an in-scope building with the newly appointed Building Safety Regulator (BSR) before residents move in.  Higher risk buildings already in occupation must be registered within a set period once the new regime is in force.  
  4. Once registered, apply to the BSR for a Building Assessment Certificate (the Certificate).  Once the Certificate is issued, residents can be satisfied that the Accountable Person has been assessed and is meeting their statutory obligations at that time.
  5. Maintain the "golden thread" of safety information from all Dutyholders, started during the design and construction process and handed to the Accountable Person on completion.
  6. Appoint a Building Safety Manager (BSM) to support the Accountable Person and be accountable for the day-to-day management of building safety, such as maintaining fire protection systems and briefing residents on safety.  The BSM will also serve as the official point of contact for residents.  This position may be filled in-house by the Accountable Person if they have the requisite qualifications and competence.  The Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB) has launched a new Certificate in Fire Safety and a Level 6 Diploma in Building Safety Management, designed for professionals moving into this role.  The BSM will also need to be organised with good communication skills to build and maintain relationships with residents.  The British Standards Institute will also be publishing standards for the necessary qualities a BSM needs, by Spring 2022.  Appointing a satisfactory BSM is considered by the BSR as part of the application process for the Certificate.     
  7. Establish a structured process as part of their mandatory occurrence reporting obligations and provide reports of such occurrences to the BSR.        

The purpose of an Accountable Person is to ensure someone (whether a person or corporate entity) is responsible for the safety of higher risk buildings, with a clear record of any measures taken by them to resolve safety issues that may arise.  The BSB was laid before Parliament on 5 July 2021 and is likely to gain Royal Assent and become law by July 2022.  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.  This gives property managers plenty of time to acquaint themselves with the requirements and obtain any qualifications, if necessary.  We suggest it is not too early to begin planning now and start to think about the processes needed ahead of time. 

For further information or assistance, please contact Alex Anderson or Kat Cusack.