Government u-turns on Building Safety Manager role in raft of Building Safety Bill amendments

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Ministers are poised to scrap the requirement for a Building Safety Manager under the forthcoming Building Safety Bill, Building Engineer has learned.
 
In January, the UK government set out the three principles underlying its new approach to tackling the building safety crisis:

  • to make industry pay to fix the problems for which it is responsible
  • to protect leaseholders
  • to restore common sense to the assessment of building safety risks, speeding up fixing the highest risk buildings and stopping buildings being declared unsafe unnecessarily.

The government is now introducing a number of further changes to reinforce this new approach. A summary of the key updates is given below.

Ensuring industry pays  

Housing Minister Michael Gove (pictured above) will be updating shortly on progress in discussions with industry to ensure the industry self-remediates the buildings that it constructed. In the meantime, the government has provided further detail on how it will impose a solution on the industry to the need to pay for buildings to be remediated, if they do not agree voluntarily. These will include powers to block developers from starting work even where they have planning permission and to stop new buildings being signed off as fit for use. The government has stated that it does not want to use these powers, but "the industry should be in no doubt that we will not hesitate to use them should it become necessary".
 
The government has also announced that it is strengthening the tools available to compel developers and construction products manufacturers to pay their share of remediation costs. New Remediation Contribution Orders will be available to compel developers, partnerships and limited liability partnerships, and landlords to pay for remediation, preventing them from hiding their liability behind complex company structures. These

Orders will also be able to require developers of defective buildings to reimburse leaseholders for costs they have already paid out. The government is also creating new causes of action to compel construction products manufacturers to pay to put right buildings that have been compromised by their products, further reducing the costs for which leaseholders might become liable.

The future safety regime

The government states that it has taken note of concerns raised by leaseholders about the structure of the future safety regime outlined in the Building Safety Bill – particularly where decision-making power is concentrated in the hands of freeholders and managing agents, and not the residents, who live in a building and know it best. To that end, the government is:

  • Removing the duty to appoint a Building Safety Manager, ensuring there is flexibility in the regime to enable Accountable Persons to set the most appropriate arrangements for their buildings and residents, and removing the unnecessary cost a BSM could impose on leaseholders in high-rise buildings. This is a major change to the proposals made by Dame Judith Hackitt.
  • Removing the separate Building Safety Charge, recognising the need to protect leaseholders from another additional charging infrastructure.
  • Requiring the Building Safety Regulator to invite disabled representatives onto its residents’ panel; ensuring they have a strong voice in the regime as those among the most vulnerable in the event of a building fire.
  • Enabling resident-managed buildings to appoint a professional director to support them in meeting their building safety duties

Protecting leaseholders 

The government is exempting more leaseholders from paying any costs for remediation. In addition to exempting all leaseholders in buildings over 11 metres from cladding costs, qualifying leaseholders with properties valued at less than £175,000 (or £325,000 in Greater London) will now be protected entirely from all remediation costs, including those related to non-cladding defects. The government is also protecting leaseholders that own a small number of properties, providing that those owning up to three properties qualify for all leaseholder protections in the Bill (up from two properties previously).
 
The government is intending to make it easier for leaseholders to pay their capped contribution towards non-cladding remediation, where their building’s developer, freeholder or landlord cannot be traced or cannot afford to pay the full costs. Leaseholders are now being allowed to spread their contribution payment over ten, rather than five years.
 
Remediation, where required, is to be conducted quickly and Remediation Orders will be available to set out the remediation work required, and the time period in which it must be completed by the landlord of a building.
 
The government claims that, taken together, these changes mean that many leaseholders across England will now pay nothing for any remediation works; and of those remaining, no one will pay more than £10,000 (£15,000 in London) for remediation works across their lifetime.

Additional amendments

There are several other smaller changes, which include removing insurance requirements on Approved Inspectors; strengthening the inspection powers for the Building Safety Regulator; and ensuring that longer warranties can be required.

Image credit | Shutterstock
 

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