The laws and regulations governing fire safety in England and Wales are currently being completely overhauled by the government. Its goal is to modernise the current system, enhance standards, and make homes safer for the people who live in them. It is widely regarded as a once in a generation package of reform.
Politicians and professionals have extensively examined and discussed the proposed modifications; however, some issues still need to be worked out and decided. Change can be unsettling, as we all know.
WHO WILL THIS IMPACT?
Everyone who resides in what would be referred to as a higher risk residential building will be impacted by the new system (HRRB). According to the proposed legislation as it stands, this is a residential structure that is either seven stories or higher or more than 18 metres high.
The UK Government has worked on the changes for almost five years. They will be applicable to structures in both Wales and England, and ministers in the Senedd Cymru will have the authority to modify and reform construction requirements. They do not apply to Scotland, which has its own revisions to the safety systems and laws and uses a distinct system of building ownership and management.
The Building Safety Act, a crucial piece of law, covers the fundamental ideas of the new system. The Government is also working to offer leaseholders more authority over the areas where they live. Changes to the leasehold system will be necessary for this, giving residents more control over how their properties are managed on a daily basis.
Residents will need to prepare for greater fire safety regulations as a result of the two reform agendas working together. People who live in traditional leasehold-freehold buildings will experience these changes differently from those who live in resident-managed or commonhold projects because various developments run in different ways. In our opinion, each model has advantages over the others, and reform presents a chance to provide our clients additional options, which is something that should be welcomed.
Everyone must, however, be aware of how their roles will alter, the level of responsibility they will bear, and the support that is available to them, especially from their property manager, if these changes are to be successful. The new legal framework will place additional responsibility on resident management companies (RMCs), so it is crucial for resident directors to have all the information they want.
NEW BUILDING SAFETY FRAMEWORK
1. The Accountable Person
2. Improving standards
3. Building Safety Regulator
1. THE ACCOUNTABLE PERSON
New positions and functions have been added to the building safety system as a result of the Building Safety Act. The Accountable Person is the most crucial of these.
The person or group of people in charge of ultimately ensuring that building safety requirements are followed will be known as the Accountable Person. They’ll evaluate the hazards, make sure the correct information is maintained regarding the development, and make sure the locals are informed of all pertinent safety information, such as what to do in the event of a fire.
The Accountable Person is typically the owner (or “freeholder”) of the building, however in situations when a development is managed by an RMC, they will assume the responsibility. This implies that it is the responsibility of each resident director to ensure compliance with the new building safety system.
While for many it will imply a new set of responsibilities, for some it will be a logical extension of their current function. These requirements, which resident directors will be required to fulfil in accordance with the Building Safety Act, are legally binding.
At recently constructed communities, there is an increase in the number of RMCs founded as homeowners seek to play a more active role in the management of their houses. Due to the fact that there will soon be more RMCs working in England and Wales, it is critical that everyone understands their function.
While it is expected that the Accountable Person will be ultimately responsible for the buildings and their safety, they will frequently need to rely on other professionals who have the knowledge and abilities required to carry out the essential safety functions and serve as the “boots on the ground.” How this should be done will be decided by the Accountable Person.
2. IMPROVING STANDARDS
The new framework for building safety includes some crucial components that focus on increasing information availability and transparency. This is done to ensure that it is always obvious who is in charge of the building and any modifications. This includes identifying the building’s construction materials and verifying that the safety systems are functional.
This will be accomplished using several novel techniques. The fundamental idea behind the new system is to tie a “golden thread” of information to every development. In actuality, it will be a computerised case file with all the required safety data, including current risk assessments and blueprint drawings. This important “golden thread” will cover all pertinent information from the design and construction stages to the present. The Accountable Person will be responsible for creating and maintaining the golden thread.
The safety case report is yet another vital component of a successful development. The Accountable Person will evaluate the risks to the building’s safety as well as the precautions that have been taken to avoid mishaps. Additionally, there will be a record of residential structures at increased risk, to which pertinent developments must be added.
The Accountable Person will need to work meticulously and carefully to identify hazards and demonstrate how they are being handled, with the assistance of building and safety specialists. The golden thread and reporting systems are made to simplify that process by laying out exactly how data is logged and recorded.
It will be crucial to pay close attention to the locals. The Accountable Person’s duties will include creating processes that enable the investigation of complaints or concerns from building residents.
3. BUILDING SAFETY REGULATOR
For structures in England that fall under its purview, the Building Safety Act is introducing a new regulator. The Building Safety Regulator will be the name of this. The regulator will be a body that monitors and establishes a schedule for the implementation of building safety laws. It is being established by the government, but it will be autonomous and have the responsibility of enforcing the new regulations. If the new building safety system is not implemented, it will have the authority to examine the situation and impose penalties.
The regulator will be responsible for ensuring that those involved in home planning, design, and construction has the necessary degree of training and experience. It will also verify that this is the case for businesses that take care of structures after they have been constructed and occupied.
For all HRRBs, a Building Assurance Certificate must be obtained from the Building Safety Regulator, and the building must also be registered, in order to demonstrate that it is secure. The Accountable Person will be responsible for obtaining one of these certificates, which will depend on how well the safety case report has been written.
The regulator will need to collaborate with organisations including local councils, fire and rescue agencies, and building control bodies in order to carry out its duties.
Additionally, new legislation would allow residents of newly constructed homes to escalate concerns to the ombudsman and receive an impartial decision as well as mandate that developers join the New Homes Ombudsman.
Although the regulator will solely be responsible for managing buildings in England, the devolved Government in Wales has also made plans to create a body akin to it.
The government’s efforts to improve building safety have yielded some key insights, one of which is the necessity of people’ views being heard. People must feel empowered to call out unethical behaviour and have faith that their remarks or worries will be taken seriously.
Therefore, the government wants to make sure that residents have more information available to them and may participate more actively in risk management inside their building. This will assist ensure more accountability and the capacity to identify any mistakes or malfeasance.
The golden thread will be one of the primary means via which information will be made available. All HRRBs will be required to have this in place by the Building Safety Regulator, and it will be the Accountable Person’s responsibility to ensure that it is correct and updated on a regular basis.
The Accountable Person will also be required to actively engage residents in HRRBs, such as by developing and periodically updating a Residents’ Engagement Strategy and ensuring that a complaint procedure is in place. Residents will also be able to escalate problems under the new system and speak with the regulator directly.
SUPPORT FOR LEASEHOLDERS
THE IMPACT ON RMC DIRECTORS
There is still time for resident directors to get ready for the upcoming adjustments.
The most crucial factor is that each person is aware of their responsibilities and is capable of doing so. The sooner you can start talking with your freeholder and property management, even though not all the details have been finalised, the better.
Professional and seasoned workers in our sector have already begun to make preparations and the new system will have an impact on the work undertaken.
The choice of the appropriate professional team will be critical for RMCs who accept the Accountable Person job. A good manager will relieve resident directors of their duties, relieving you of daily responsibilities. They will also be able to share information and counsel. Professional managers have the abilities and expertise required to maintain large and complex structures, including a working grasp of fire systems. These will be invaluable resources.