A new regulator will be created with the power to prosecute developers that don’t meet safety standards, the government has announced.
The Building Safety Regulator is designed to avoid a repeat of the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire that left 72 people dead.
Grenfell was blamed on several factors, from dangerous cladding to the mishandling of resident safety complaints.
Overseen by The Health and Safety Executive (HSE), the new regulator will be responsible for ensuring that building safety risks in new and existing high-rise residential buildings of 18m and above are managed and resolved effectively.
Revealing the plans in the Government’s Building Safety Bill on July 5 2012, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick claimed the regulator is the next step in overhauling building safety legislation: giving residents more power to hold builders and developers to account, and toughening sanctions against those who threaten their safety.
What are the plans?
The Building Safety Bill includes measures to:
- Ensure there are clearly identified people responsible for safety during the design, build and occupation of a high-rise residential building.
- Establish a Building Safety Regulator to hold to account those who break the rules and are not properly managing building safety risks, including taking enforcement action where needed.
- Give residents in these buildings more routes to raise concerns about safety, and mechanisms to ensure their concerns will be heard and taken seriously.
- Extend rights to compensation for substandard workmanship and unacceptable defects.
- Drive the culture change needed across the industry to enable the design and construction of high-quality, safe homes in the years to come.
Mr Jenrick said: “The new building safety regime will be a proportionate one, ensuring those buildings requiring remediation are brought to an acceptable standard of safety swiftly, and reassuring the vast majority of residents and leaseholders in those buildings that their homes are safe.”
He added that the government is increasing the amount of time that residents can seek compensation for substandard construction work from six to 15 years – with these changes applying retrospectively.
As a result, residents of a building completed in 2010 would be able to bring proceedings against the developer until 2025.
The Government reforms also include new procedures for those seeking compensation for shoddy refurbishments which make their home unliveable.
What else does the Bill include?
The new national regulator will have powers to remove products from the market that present safety risks – such as types of cladding - and prosecute or use civil penalties against any business that breaks the rules.
In addition, the Bill includes steps to protect leaseholders by providing a legal requirement for building owners to explore alternative ways to meet remediation costs before passing these onto leaseholders, as well as evidence that this has been done.
The Government insists this fulfils its commitment to fund the cost of replacing unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18m and over in England, with a £5 billion investment in building safety, alongside the introduction of a new levy and a tax to ensure that industry pays its fair share towards the costs of cladding remediation.
As part of the Bill, developers will be required to join the New Homes Ombudsman scheme, which will compel them to provide redress to a homebuyer, including through the awarding of compensation. There may be additional sanctions for those developers who breach the requirement to belong to the New Homes Ombudsman.
Learn more about the cladding crisis.
What was the reaction?
The bill was largely welcomed as an important step towards ensuring that a Grenfell-style disaster doesn’t happen again.
Dame Judith Hackitt, author of the ‘Building A Safer Future’ report published in response to Grenfell, said: “I am delighted that we have reached this important milestone for the Building Safety Bill.
“It is vital that we focus on getting the system right for the future and set new standards for building safety.”
She added: “Residents and other stakeholders need to have their confidence in high-rise buildings restored and those who undertake such projects must be held to account for delivering safe buildings.”
Chair of the National Fire Chiefs Council Mark Hardingham said: “We welcome this important Bill’s introduction as it will contribute to essential developments in fire safety.
“We are focused on working with government and partners to fix the broken building regime, make buildings safer and restore public confidence.”
However, some argued that the bill doesn’t go far enough, and ignores buildings under 18m that contain dangerous cladding.
Labour Shadow Housing Secretary Lucy Powell said: “Four years after the Grenfell tragedy, stronger building safety regulation is badly needed.
“Whilst this Bill makes important changes to regulation into the future, we needed urgent action and leadership to protect the hundreds of thousands of people already trapped, facing huge bills to fix historic failures.
“Rather than yet another betrayal of their promises to leaseholders, we need legal protections to ensure that millions of pounds of cladding remediation costs are not passed on to innocent homeowners and tenants.
“This is what the Government promised, and Labour will work cross-party to fight for protections to be included in the Building Safety Bill.”
HomeOwners Alliance Chief Executive Paula Higgins said: ‘We welcome the announcement of the new Building Safety Regulator and some of the proposals in the Bill.
‘However, in recent years we have seen the devastating impact on people – emotionally and financially – who are living in homes with unsafe cladding.
“And in circumstances such as this we don’t believe extending the period of time residents can sue developers for is what consumers need – it just allows the government step back and watch as homeowners and developers fight it out.
“We urge the government to take decisive action that puts consumers at its heart.
“In particular, it needs to revisit the fact they are ignoring homeowners living in buildings up to 18 metres tall - fire does not respect arbitrary height limits.”