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Building Safety Act receives Royal Assent

The long-anticipated Building Safety Act (BSA) has completed its passage through Parliament and received Royal Assent. The BSA, which is the culmination of reforms following the Grenfell fire tragedy, has both been described as ‘the biggest changes to building safety legislation’ and having ‘changed beyond all recognition’ from the Building Safety Bill first introduced. 

The BSA is without doubt the biggest shakeup in construction law for the last 40 years. The staggered implementation of the BSA gives time for stakeholders to adjust to the new regime. 

Although now on the statute books, the BSA will come into force in stages over the next 18 months. Key provisions include:  

Extended limitation period 

The Defective Premises Act 1972 (DPA) provides for claims where a dwelling is unfit for habitation.  For cladding related claims, the DPA gave rise to two problems.  

 It only covered claims related to the original construction, whereas cladding was often fitted subsequently.  The six-year limitation period also ruled out claims for cladding fitted long before the dangers it posed became widely known. The BSA amends the DPA so that it will apply to any work done an existing dwelling. 

It extends the limitation period to 30 years for claims that have accrued when this part of the BSA comes into force (intended within the next 12 months) and to 15 years for claims accruing after that date. 

Whilst this is not a solution for all – original developers may no longer exist, and claimants may still face funding issues – it potentially reactivates many claims that had previously been ruled out on these grounds. 

New rules for ‘higher risk buildings’ 

These are defined as building over 18m / seven storeys and containing at least two residential units.  The BSA establishes the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) as a division of the HSE to implement the more stringent regulatory regime for higher risk buildings and to oversee the safety and performance of all buildings. The BSR has enhanced powers to address non-compliance with Building Regulations and offences under the BSA. 

 

The BSA is without doubt the biggest shakeup in construction law for the last 40 years. The staggered implementation of the BSA gives time for stakeholders to adjust to the new regime. 

New gateways in the planning and construction process 

Three ‘gateways’ apply for higher risk buildings. Gateway, one concerns planning issues, gateway two occurs before construction starts and gateway three is at practical completion.  Together they comprise a regime for ensuring compliance with the new rules.   

Dutyholder / Accountable person 

The BSA creates a framework for the introduction of a ‘duty holder regime’ during the construction phase as a point of responsibility akin to the existing CDM Regulations. Duty holders must have the necessary experience, skill and knowledge for this role. After occupation, the duty holder is known as the Accountable Person. 

Their responsibilities include registering the building with the BSR, assessing building safety risks concerning the building and taking all reasonable steps to prevent risks materialising.  

New home warranty 

The current market typically provides for 10-year new home warranties. These will become mandatory for a 15-year minimum term, with penalties for non-compliance. The BSA also establishes a framework for the creation of a New Homes Ombudsman. 

 Steps need to be taken now to be ready for when the new law is in force. Prepare now for the new Building Safety Act and contact our construction team for support.  

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Disclaimer
This information is for guidance purposes only and should not be regarded as a substitute for taking legal advice. Please refer to the full General Notices on our website.

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