The Building Safety Act 2022 came into force on 28th April 2022 and contains reforms designed to make living in high rise buildings safer and without financial penalty for those that do live in them.
High rise buildings are essentially buildings that are taller than 18 metres (or have at least seven storeys or more) and which contain at least two residential units within them. Measurements are taken from the ground floor level and any storeys below ground level are disregarded.
The Building Safety Act 2022 introduces mechanisms to give those living in/owning a property within a high rise building a means of protecting their investment and their safety:
- No longer will tenants be the first port of call to pay for the cost of rectifying historic defects in the build of a property. Instead, it will be possible to call on those that built the building to pay for those costs. These will not be passed onto the tenants. Through a means of requesting information a tenant will be able to determine what (if anything) is defective in their building and require that to be remedied by the party that built it.
- The Act does allow a landlord to ask a tenant of a relevant lease to contribute to the cost of managing ongoing safety mechanisms. The Act automatically amends service charge provisions in existing relevant leases to allow this to be done. Essentially calculating what each tenant has to pay, will be governed by the way in which any existing service charge is apportioned. Any new leases of newly constructed buildings will automatically have these provisions incorporated, but it is likely that they will also be written into the lease in some form or other.
- The ability to ask tenants to contribute to rectifying safety measures does exclude commercial tenants. This means a landlord could find themselves out of pocket in funding these measures. Whether or not a commercial tenant would voluntarily agree to contribute remains to be seen – for any new lease this would be a point of negotiation. There is an argument in a commercial tenant contributing if it means that its own interest in the property is protected through any measures being undertaken.
- Residents of high rise buildings will be able to have more say in how their building is kept safe – concerns can be raised to the Building Safety Regulator.
From a building owner’s point of view, much more vigilance will need to be paid in how a building is constructed and how existing buildings are maintained:
- There are clear lines of responsibility for those involved in designing, constructing, and completing buildings. There are specific guidelines and requirements that need to be met for these parties. Reporting needs to be carried out with records kept and made available to building inspectors, buyers, lenders etc. If this is not available then a property will quickly become unsaleable and will not be able to be mortgaged.
- Criminal sanctions exist for those who do not comply.
- Building owners and landlords will not be able to escape contributing to the cost of fixing buildings.
Whilst navigating the new regime will be a challenge for all involved, it can (hopefully) only be seen as a welcome and necessary challenge given past incidents. It is going to take a while to become fully familiar with what the Act requires and what the liabilities and benefits are for all those concerned, something that the property industry as a whole is working towards.