In line with the new Building Safety (Registration of Higher-Risk Buildings and Review of Decisions) (England) Regulations 2023, all existing occupied higher risk buildings in England must be registered with the national Building Safety Regulator. The six-month window for this process is nearing completion on 1st October 2023. Failure to register with the Regulator is a criminal offence and owners and managers who fail to comply by the deadline will be investigated and may face prosecution.
Health & Safety Consultants at Gleeds, Lauren Watts and Peter Waxman, advise what landlords need do to overcome the key registration challenges and successfully register their buildings on time.
What are the key priorities for Landlords to meet the registration deadline?
Lauren: It’s completely understandable the Building Safety Act regime and associated guidance can feel overly complex and burdensome, but essentially Landlords need to focus on evidencing what Principal Accountable Persons (PAP) or Accountable Persons (AP) already know about their building structure and the processes they already have in place to ensure the safety of residents. Once you have registered your building, the BSR are currently requesting additional key building information about the existing building structure and fire safety. It's a good idea to start preparing for this now by getting familiar with the BSR's Guidance documents. And if you're a PAP, pay special attention, because you're required to take all reasonable steps to find this information.
PAPs should also prioritise developing their Safety Case Report (SCR) for existing buildings, digitally, as you’re expected to submit this after the registration window closes. Be aware the SCR not only covers the structure and fire safety aspects of your buildings, but also your safety management system. This includes how you have engaged with your residents, how you have co-ordinated with other accountable persons, emergency arrangements and occurrence reporting.
What are the common misconceptions about the legislation you hear from clients?
Peter: A lot of the time, clients aren’t aware that the Act and new Regulator covers all buildings, not just ‘high rise residential’. There’s a perception that the definition of a higher risk building will remain at 18m, but the regulations have been structured so that the threshold can be changed very easily to a lower height such as 11m.
Duty holders can be another area grey area. Although they mirror those identified by the CDM Regulations, they are different. The ultimate aim of the Act is compliance with the Building Regulations, and to achieve this it mirrors the CDM approach.
Clients also seem to think the industry is well prepared – although pockets of the industry have fully embraced the change and are preparing for it, most cases have been slow to adopt. This is partly due to the slow release of information from the Regulator, and it’s likely they will only move faster once they’re forced to do so.
Interestingly, I’ve heard clients say the removal of the Building Safety Manager role, apart from being a cost-cutting measure, suggests that the regular review and inspection of premises will underpin the Safety Case, and management systems can be implemented remotely or sporadically. In fact, there will be significant attention on your management approach to ensure building standards and residents’ safety. Inevitably, this will mean a higher level of visibility across your estate.
What are the key steps Landlords should take to prepare for the registration deadline?
Lauren: I’ll summarise these for you:
- Understand the Requirements: familiarise yourself with the specific registration requirements outlined in the building safety regulations relevant to your properties. Attend as many training events / seminars / CPD opportunities as possible to keep up to date with the latest developments.
- Identify Eligible Properties: determine which properties in your portfolio are subject to registration based on the criteria provided in the regulations.
- Collect Documentation: gather the necessary documentation for each eligible property, including building information, safety assessments, certifications and other required paperwork. Refer to the Key Building Information guidance to understand what information you will need to review and submit and ensure that you have a system in place to maintain and update the documentation.
- Assess Compliance: conduct thorough assessments to ensure compliance with fire safety and other relevant regulations. Identify any areas that require remedial actions or improvements.
- Appoint a Building Safety Manager: consider appointing a qualified Building Safety Manager to oversee and manage the building safety responsibilities for the registered properties. Although this is no longer a legal requirement, it would be advantageous to have a specific role focussing on ensuring compliance.
- Complete Registration: submit the required information and documentation for each eligible property to the Building Safety Regulator by 1st October.
After you’ve submitted your application, it’s important to implement a robust system and processes to maintain compliance with building safety regulations. This can include regular safety assessments, inspections, maintenance and timely resolution of any issues.
How can Landlords make the registration process more efficient?
Peter: There’s a distinct lack of awareness about the specific requirements to register building and those with limited resources are facing challenges analysing the sheer volume of information, particularly with the need to transfer paper-based information to digital format. You really have to be proactive, allow ample time and keep up to date with the evolving building registration regulations and requirements. Follow industry news and seek guidance from professional advisors or industry associations to streamline procedures.
Keeping accurate records of building information, safety assessments and certifications will help facilitate the process. Consider using a digital documentation management tool, preferable one that’s linked to the Regulator to enable collaborations and give you oversight of your compliance levels. And remember to inform your residents about the requirements and involve them in the process so you can address their concerns and ensure their cooperation.
What should Landlords expect after 1st October registration deadline?
Lauren: This complex legislation and level of change is going to take time to bed in. Once the gateway has closed, and existing buildings are all moving towards greater levels of compliance, the Regulator will focus their attention on the highest risk areas.
Many existing premises are still facing huge costs and delays associated with recladding, fire watches and associated challenges. These will take time to resolve and will be a focus for the Regulator and the industry. If successful, it is likely that the requirements for higher risk residential properties may be extended to cover all building types.
Additionally, there are still a few key aspects of the legislation that are ambiguous and can be interpreted in a number of ways. Unsurprisingly, it is likely that the first legal precents will have a bearing on the direction of compliance. The first test cases and rulings may indicate further how this complex legislation will evolve.
Peter: All legislation can be influenced by various factors including government priorities, public concerns, technological advancements and changes in society's needs. It is possible that building safety regulations and related legislation will continue to evolve to address emerging challenges and ensure the safety and well-being of residents.
To stay up to date on legislative changes, we would recommend monitoring official government sources, and industry publications and consulting with legal professionals or industry associations specialised in property and building regulations. They can provide the most accurate and up-to-date information regarding any anticipated developments to the legislation beyond October 2023.
This information is up to date at the time of publishing this article.