In July 2022, the UK Government launched a consultation seeking views on its proposals for improving the safety regime for occupied "higher-risk" buildings – i.e., buildings either over 18m or containing at least 7 stories ("the Consultation").
The most recent Government update was published on 14 March 2023, addressing the responses received on the proposals in relation to: (i) Registration; and (ii) Reviews of Decisions.
The UK Government has clarified the requirements for registration of higher-risk buildings under s77 of the Building Safety Act 2022 ("the Act"). Three key points are:
- A buildings "principal accountable person" ("PAP") will be responsible for complying with the registration requirements under the Act. A majority of respondents agreed that a six-month grace period following the regulations coming into force in April 2023 would be sufficient to allow PAPs to comply with the new requirements. The UK Government has accepted that PAPs will need upskilling and time to prepare to meet the requirements for registration. However, it promises that the Regulator will take an active role to support PAPs and other accountable persons through the process
- The consensus amongst respondents is that the PAP should be able to designate an agent to apply for registration and act as the main point of contact for the Regulator on its behalf. The UK Government agrees, but it has, however, deviated from its original proposal that an agent would be required to confirm the accuracy of the contents of the application. It has now been clarified that responsibility for the application of the building and the accuracy of information provided will remain with the PAP, even where an agent is appointed.
- In the original consultation, the UK Government set out specific prescribed information which the applicant will require to provide about the building and its management as part of its application for registration. Despite some respondents' concerns the UK Government has taken the view that the requirements as set out in the original Consultation are sufficient.
In addition, the original Consultation had proposed the applicant be required to provide a statement that the information submitted is "to the best of the applicant's knowledge, truthful and accurate". The UK Government has now dropped this requirement on the basis that it is "implicit that the information the PAP is submitting is true and accurate".
REVIEW OF DECISIONS
The original Consultation contained a proposal the certain decisions would be eligible for further review by the Regulator before being referred to the First Tier-Tribunal. A majority of respondents agreed that a PAP should be entitled to request a review of the Regulator's decision. However, concerns were raised that the process would "take too long". To address these concerns, the UK Government has promised that the regulations will set out:
- a requirement for the applicant to give a notice to the Regulator requesting a review of a decision within 21 days of the original decision being made; and
- that the Regulator must carry out the review within 28 days of reviewing the notice.
Whilst the highlighted words above appear in the Government's response, it may be that the intention is that this period commences on receipt of the notice. Further clarification from the Government would be useful.
- The UK Government has clarified that the PAP or his agent can inform the Regulator of any changes to the information supplied as part of the application for registration. This must be done within 14 calendar days of becoming aware of the change (excluding various public holidays). However, the PAP remains responsible for ensuring the accuracy of the information provided.
- The original Consultation provided that PAPs would require to confirm whether an existing building met the building regulations at the time of completion. The UK Government has acknowledged that this information would be "difficult and costly to obtain where it was not readily available". Therefore, a failure to obtain this information will not inhibit a PAP from being able to register the building.
One of the dominant themes arising out of the responses to the consultation related to the role and responsibilities of the PAP. The UK Government has promised that the Regulator will provide PAPs with support, training, and materials in order to ensure compliance with the registration requirements by the end of the grace period in October 2023.
On the whole, the public response to the Consultation has been largely positive. Where concerns have been raised by respondents, the UK Government has not shied away from addressing these concerns and has, in some cases, accepted these comments and amended its proposals accordingly.
Further details of the Governments plans in relation to other elements of the consultation are eagerly awaited.
For further information on matters relating to the Building Safety Act and Fire Safety in general please see our Building & Fire Safety Hub.