‘Cladding Bill’ introduced into Parliament
The Building Safety Bill, an area of particular focus for the Government this year, will outline the next steps in an extensive legislation overhaul expected to hold developers more accountable and give residents more power.
The Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick will set out the new measures in the Building Safety Bill based on the recommended reforms proposed by Dame Judith Hackitt’s review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety in 2018. Hackitt’s recommendations included giving leaseholders greater input into the management of buildings, and introducing more severe penalties for property managers and repair firms who put residents at risk.
A key development of the new Building Safety Bill is the establishment of a Building Safety Regulator that will oversee the new regime and will be responsible for ensuring that any building safety risks in residential buildings of 18m and above are effectively managed and resolved, taking enforcement action where required.
Other changes introduced by the Bill include having clearly identified people responsible for safety during the design, build and occupation of a building, giving residents more routes to raise concerns about safety, and extended rights to compensation for substandard workmanship and unacceptable building defects.
Specific review points will now be implemented at the design, construction and completion phases of a building’s development to ensure that safety is considered at each and every stage of construction. Better documentation and information management throughout the lifecycle of a building will be required, and a named “responsible person” will need to be declared.
Additionally, the timeframe for bringing claims against developers will increase from 6 to 15 years and will be retrospective, and freeholders must now explore and prove that alternative ways to meet the costs of remediation have been conducted, rather than passing costs straight to leaseholders.
Developer membership of the New Homes Ombudsman scheme will also be a compulsory requirement and will tighten the redress and compensation process for homebuyers. Developers that breach the membership requirement of the scheme may receive additional sanctions.
The Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick commented:
“This Bill will ensure high standards of safety for people’s homes, and in particular for high rise buildings, with a new regulator providing essential oversight at every stage of a building’s lifecycle, from design, construction, completion to occupation.”
“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.”
The reforms build on the government’s commitment to fully fund the cost of replacing unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18m and above in England, with an unprecedented £5 billion investment in building safety, although some estimate that the costs could reach £15 billion. This is alongside the introduction of a new levy and a tax to ensure that the industry pays its fair share towards the costs of cladding remediation.
The Bill will also include powers to strengthen the regulatory framework for construction products, underpinned by a market surveillance and enforcement regime steered by the Office for Product Safety and Standards (OPSS). The national regulator will have the power to remove unsafe products from the market and prosecute against any business that breaches the rules and compromises public safety.
Chair of the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, Dame Judith Hackitt 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.
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.”