The Building Safety Act has an important role to play, but what does it entail? And more importantly, how does it impact homeowners? This guide looks at the Building Safety Act, and its 2022 updates. And how estate agents can provide more clarity to home buyers and sellers.
Purpose of the Building Safety Act
The Building Safety Act is a piece of legislation, covering England and Wales. Designed to overhaul how residential buildings are constructed and maintained. It also looks at protecting the rights of leaseholders. The intention of the Act is to have a far-reaching effect on the real estate industry. Imposing new duties aimed at increasing accountability, transparency, and oversight in buildings.
Building Safety Act recommendations
Changes within the Act include new regulations for fire safety and require a Building Safety Regulator. They will be responsible for securing the safety of people in or about a property in relation to risks arising from these buildings. New fire safety guidance comes into force on 1 October 2023.
The Act states that no costs relating to the removal and replacement of elements like external cladding will be recoverable from the leaseholder. Beyond that, building owners will have an obligation to refund any costs leaseholders may have overpaid in the last five years as part of their service charge.
Another section of the Act focuses on liability in relation to the construction of new buildings. It includes aspects like having the direct rights to take action against construction product manufacturers in relation to domestic property that is unfit for habitation.
The latest measures and policy
The Building Safety Act saw its most recent update in 2022. Now building owners and landlords are required to fund any necessary repairs.
Any building owner invoicing leaseholders, or continuing to seek payment for outstanding bills related to historical safety defects, could now face criminal action unless they can prove the leaseholder is legally entitled to cover the costs. Protections for leaseholders came into effect as of 28 June 2022.
The UK Government is also launching a new scheme to cover the costs of remediating unsafe cladding where buildings are between 11-18 metres high. The original owner can’t be identified or held responsible.
Currently, 48 of the UK’s most prominent housebuilders have signed up for the Building Safety Pledge. In doing so they agree to fix buildings over 11 metres with serious fire safety defects that they developed, or refurbished, in the last three decades.
Changes from April 2023
On 6 April 2023, the Higher-Risk Buildings Regulations 2023 will come into force as part of the implementation of the Building Safety Act 2022. These regulations require all existing occupied higher-risk buildings to be registered with the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) by 1 October 2023. Failure to register could result in investigation and prosecution. Around 12,500 existing buildings are expected to be affected.
The Principal Accountable Person (PAP) for each higher-risk building is responsible for submitting the application for registration. Within 28 days of the registration application, the PAP must submit Key Building Information to the BSR. This information includes building details, PAP and Accountable Person(s) information, construction year, and completion certificate for new builds.
Important dates for the new building safety framework include the opening of registration for existing occupied high-rise residential buildings in April 2023, the registration deadline for existing occupied buildings in October 2023, and the requirement for new buildings to be registered before occupation from October 2023.
It is crucial for building owners, managers, and responsible parties to familiarise themselves with the requirements of the new building safety regime, including determining whether their building is classified as a Higher-Risk Building, registering with the The Building Safety Regulator, and providing the necessary key building information. Compliance with the new regulations is essential to ensure adherence to the building safety regime and avoid potential investigations or prosecution.
Estate agents can help you understand the Building Safety Act
Estate agents have a responsibility to keep buyers and sellers in the loop with the latest information regarding the Building Safety Act. This is especially true where leasehold properties are involved, as they take up the bulk of the focus in the Act.
You should aim to work with a property agent aware of the Act. And who can advise accordingly if a potential purchase or sale is affected, be it a fire safety or cladding issue.
Propertymark campaigning sought clarification for buy-to-let landlords, putting pressure on the UK Government to include those that own more than one property to receive support.
Member agents should all be aware of the new responsibilities of developers and building owners. They should also be up to date on protections provided to ensure that costs are not passed on to leaseholders.
A new online checker also informs you what financial protections are in place and if a building qualifies for financial protections under the Building Safety Act.
What should agents know?
Responsibilities of developers and building owners
Agents should also be aware of the responsibilities developers and building owners now have under the Building Safety Act. Such as the ones being on them to cover costs regarding cladding replacement.
Protections in place, so leaseholders don’t pay the costs
It’s also good for estate agents to convey leaseholder guidance. Especially as so many changes are happening with the leasehold reform. Part of the reform includes limits on ground rent and mandatory 999-year leases. Again, they should also be able to explain protections, such as leaseholders not being responsible for cladding replacement costs.
More transparency and protections for leaseholders
The Building Safety Act is one of the largest pieces of legislation the real estate industry has seen. It will profoundly impact everyone from developers and building owners to home buyers and sellers.
At times, all the changes may seem a little overwhelming. Using a qualified estate agent, such as a Propertymark member, you can feel confident you’ll have someone relaying the correct information to you.
Last Updated: November 22nd, 2023