What is the Building Safety Act – and how does it impact you?
This is a highly technical and very fast-moving area. The Building Safety Act (2022) was introduced in the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy, with the aim to prioritise safety in the construction and maintenance of buildings. It addresses the need for enhanced safety measures in the construction industry, and sets forth guidelines and regulations to ensure that buildings meet specific safety standards, both during the construction phase and throughout their lifespan. Ultimately, it is to make sure that the property is a safe place to live.
What does the Building Safety Act aim to do?
Essentially, the act dictates responsibility for maintaining fire safety standards. It helps to clarify which parties are responsible for the costs of maintenance. Rather than all being left to the leaseholder, oftentimes the freehold or original developer will be responsible for the fire safety works that are required.
Why was the act introduced?
The need for regulation change immediately after Grenfell was undeniable, but in practice the changes didn’t actually have any impact on who was responsible for paying for remediation works. It simply stated that buildings over six stories (or 18 metres) need to have an External Wall System Fire Review certificate (EWS1) if there’s any cladding to confirm whether that cladding will require remediation.
This created a further problem. Buildings without this certificate became unsalable, trapping people in homes determined unsafe.
The next step to that was the Building Safety Act, which introduced the liability for cost element, holding original developers or the freeholders responsible for the remediation. A new leaseholder can only purchase the property when the Building Safety Act has been complied with and the relevant certificate signed.
In practice, it’s not so simple…
Rapidly introduced, with little to no training to accompany it, the act has lots of holes. Amendments have already been made in an attempt to future proof the guidance, and to reduce loopholes that leave leaseholders in unsafe living conditions with no support to manage remediation works.
With lack of clarity on how the act works in practice, managing agents, management companies and other professionals cannot be certain what the best practices are. As of yet, the Building Safety Act is all open to interpretation.
How does it impact you?
Whilst we can’t yet be sure what the reality is of the amended building safety act, one thing we can be certain of is that it will delay sales, so if you’re looking at buying or selling, make sure you act early to reduce the ongoing impact on the sales process.
For Buyers –
The act should provide buyers greater peace of mind, safeguarding against potential hazards, and helping you make informed decisions about your investments.
You need to be comfortable with the steps the seller has taken in accordance with the act, so open up this discussion as early as possible to obtain the required documentation.
For Sellers –
Be prepared to provide comprehensive documentation regarding the safety features and compliance of properties over 11 metres. This includes certificates of compliance, inspection reports, and any necessary permits. Failure to provide this information may lead to delays in the sales process or even legal disputes.
We recommend serving your leaseholder’s deed of certificate before putting your property on the market, and ideally have produced from the landlord their landlord’s deed of certificate in return.
The new Building Safety Act – what should you do?
- Due Diligence: Ensure you’re thoroughly reviewing safety certificates before purchasing a property above 11 metres.
- Insurance Coverage: Review their insurance policies to ensure they adequately cover any potential liabilities arising from the Building Safety Act of 2022. It is crucial to understand the extent of coverage and any exclusions related to building safety.
- Renovations and Upgrades: Sellers should consider investing in necessary renovations or upgrades to ensure their properties comply with the new safety standards. Ensure you’re aware of any landlords’ plans for remediation works.
- Legal Assistance: Both buyers and sellers should seek legal advice to navigate the complexities of the Building Safety Act of 2022. Legal professionals can provide guidance on compliance, contractual obligations, and potential liabilities.
- Communicate Early: Communicate with your solicitors early if your property has been impacted by regulations changes. They can provide appropriate advice and quotes for work required.
If you would like to discuss how the new building safety act impacts you, please get in touch here.
The information in this article does not constitute legal advice and is for general informational purposes only. Please contact a professional to obtain advice with respect to any particular legal matter.
It is important you understand that we are not qualified to advise you on the physical condition and safety of the property you intend to buy. We cannot give any opinion about the possible costs you might need to pay to fix defects. We are also unable to advise you on the technical application of the Building Safety Act 2022 and related fire safety legislation, or your eligibility for any relevant developers remediation schemes. If you have any concerns relating to building safety or fire risk, we would strongly advise you to these to a suitably qualified surveyor or fire safety engineer.
Bryan and Mercer Solicitors