The government released the draft of its new Building Safety Bill in July earlier this year, proposing some of the most comprehensive building safety reforms in the past 40 years. Through this new Bill, the government aims to ensure the safety of every resident and regulate the construction industry as a whole. The Bill introduces various important roles and aspects to ensure that regulations are followed and that there are clearly defined roles for the various duty holders. Let’s take a look at how the new Building Safety Bill affects leaseholders:
Bearing the Costs for Building Safety Improvements
According to the new Bill, leaseholders will be required to bear the expenses of implementing building fire safety measures. This will be in addition to the service charge, in order to make the expenses more identifiable and accounted for.
As directed in the new Bill, building owners would be required to provide accurate estimates for various building safety works, and leaseholders would have the power to refuse payment if the charges are found to be unreasonable or if the building owner does not provide a clear breakdown of the costs.
Further, the Bill states that the money collected for the purpose of fire safety measures needs to be accounted for separately through designated accounts with relevant financial institutions. Those found in violation of this requirement would be liable to prosecution by local authorities.
Leaseholders are required to pay building owners within 28 days of the bill being issued.
Inclusions in the Building Safety Charges
The new charges for building safety, as mentioned in the draft Bill, would include the cost of monitoring and managing the day-to-day safety works in the buildings. Additionally, these charges will also cover the cost of a building safety manager, the cost of compliance with the latest statutory notices, and the fees payable to the regulator.
Aim of Transparency for Leaseholders
The new draft Bill aims to create more transparency in relation to the costs for leaseholders. This change comes as thousands of leaseholders face bills amounting to up to £80,000 per flat for the remediation work post the Grenfell Tower fire, giving rise to the need for increased transparency with regards to fire safety costs.
Possibility of a Funding Model
The draft Bill also talks about the possibility of the introduction of an appropriate funding model to help leaseholders deal with the unaffordable costs of remediation works. The final Bill will give leaseholders a better idea of such funding models when it is introduced in full.
Introduction of a Building Safety Regulator
One of the major developments introduced in the draft Bill is the role of a Building Safety Regulator. This new regulator would be the one responsible for implementing and executing more stringent systems to regulate the industry and fire safety measures.
The Building Safety Regulator will also be in charge of issuing a building assurance certificate once they are provided with adequate proof that the building owner is complying with the latest statutory obligations. The regulator will also have the power to take action against building owners who fail to comply with the statutory obligations. These powers would include issuing compliance notices for buildings that fail to meet regulations and issuing stop notices for serious non-compliances found during the construction phase. Violation of the recommendations of the Building Safety Regulator could result in imprisonment and an unlimited fine for the responsible parties.
The Golden Thread of Information
To ensure transparency during the entire lifecycle of the building, the new draft Building Safety Bill also talks about the concept of a digital golden thread of information. This would help bring in more transparency in the construction industry and identify the duty holders in case of mishaps. The Bill proposes that the information be maintained on a digital platform so that it can be accessed by all parties involved throughout the lifecycle of the building.