Last reviewed 30 July 2020

The Government has said that it will bring forward fundamental changes in the draft Building Safety Bill in order to make people feel safer in their homes.

This is partly in response to the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 which claimed 72 lives and which exposed serious failings across the whole system of building and managing high-rise homes.

The independent review of building regulations and fire safety carried out by Dame Judith Hackitt in the wake of the tragedy concluded that the whole system needed major reform.

She said that residents’ safety needed to be a greater priority through the entire lifecycle of a building — from design and construction, through to when people are living in their homes.

The Government accepted the review’s recommendations and the draft Bill will set out how it will bring forward proposals to provide the biggest improvements to building safety in nearly 40 years.

It will be examined by a parliamentary committee, which will report with feedback and recommendations before the Bill is finalised. It will then be introduced formally in the House of Commons or the House of Lords.

Among other changes, it will give the Government new powers to better regulate construction materials and products and ensure they are safe to use.

Implications for residents

The proposed legislation will ensure that there will always be someone responsible for keeping residents safe in high-rise buildings, ie those 18 metres and above. These “accountable persons” will have to listen and respond to residents’ concerns and ensure their voices are heard.

A new national regulator for building safety, within the Health and Safety Executive (HSE), will make sure that accountable persons are carrying out their duties properly.

For the first time, new build homebuyers will have their right to complain to a New Homes Ombudsman, protected in legislation, and developers will be required to be a member of the scheme.

A new “building safety charge” will make it easy for leaseholders to see and know what they are being charged for when it comes to keeping their building safe.

Implications for industry

Those responsible for the safety of residents must be accountable for any mistakes and must put them right. The Bill will fully establish the regulator that will enforce new rules and take strong actions against those who break them.

It will operate a new, more stringent set of rules for high-rise residential buildings.

Contained in the draft Bill, these will apply when buildings are designed, constructed and then later occupied. At each of these three stages, it will be clear who is responsible for managing the potential risks and what is required to move to the next stage enabling a “golden thread” of vital information about the building to be gathered over its lifetime.

Building inspectors who are responsible for signing buildings off as safe for people to live in will also have to follow the new rules and must register with the regulator.