The Building Safety Act 2022 (the Act) represents a radical change in the design, construction, and management of so-called ‘higher risk’ buildings. It enacts the recommendations of the UK Government’s review into the Grenfell Tower tragedy of 2017.
The Act received Royal Assent in April this year and is expected to be in force within stages, over an 18-month period.
The Act applies to Wales as well as England and the Welsh Government’s response to the tragedy, its White Paper ‘Safer Buildings in Wales,’ sets out proposals for a comprehensive reform of building safety legislation and how it will apply to the principality. The Act allows the Welsh Government to implement a slightly different regime from that envisaged in England and will apply to any building with two or more dwellings, which will need to have an ‘accountable person’, and an annual fire risk assessment.
This new regime will cover flats, maisonettes, and houses in multiple occupation but not individual dwellings. All parties involved in the construction and maintenance of ‘higher risk buildings’ (whether developer/client/contractor/consultant/subcontractors) need to start preparing for the impact of the Act now.
The Act is designed to address a lack of:
- regulatory oversight and enforcement mechanisms
- clarity on roles and responsibilities.
Building Safety Act 2022: some key themes
Building safety regulator
The formation of a new Building Safety Regulator, under the control of the Health & Safety Executive (HSE), who will be responsible for overseeing and driving improvements in the safety and performance of all buildings, and for enforcing a more stringent regime for higher-risk buildings. The provisions of the Act concerning the new Regulator only apply in part to Wales and the devolved administration’s exact position is still to be determined on this point.
Extension of limitation period
The extension of the limitation period under which homeowners may bring a claim against developers, contractors, and professional consultants if their dwelling is not fit for habitation under the Defective Premises Act 1972. This change applies to a ‘relevant dwelling’ defined as a building consisting of or containing one or more dwelling (so not just higher risk buildings). Alarmingly for developers, this will allow claims of up to thirty years from the completion of the dwelling. These provisions of the Act are now in force in both England and Wales.
Right to claim damages
The Act will now also allow private individuals the right to claim damages where they suffer harm because work on a building has not met Building Regulations standards. The limitation period for such claims is also extended to 15 years but is not retrospective.
Regulation and scrutiny
Each development will have to pass through a series of ‘gateways’ concerning planning, commencement of works and completion, designed to bolster HSE regulation and scrutiny.
Accountability for higher risk buildings
For all higher risk buildings (in England, defined as those of at least eighteen metres in height or at least seven storeys; the Welsh government has adopted a different position, as described above) the appointment of an identifiable ‘accountable person’, who is responsible for ensuring that the fire and structural safety is properly managed for the whole building.