Out-Law News 2 min. read
20 Mar 2023, 4:55 pm
Building owners or leaseholders with responsibility for repair and maintenance of the building’s structure and external walls will be liable for a criminal offence if they fail to register occupied ‘higher-risk buildings’ in England between 6 April and 1 October 2023.
Clarification of the new registration regime – applicable to ‘the principal accountable person’, or PAP, as defined by the Building Safety Act 2022 – was provided by the government in a recent consultation response resulting in newly-made regulations, The Building Safety (Registration of Higher-Risk Buildings and Review of Decisions) (England) Regulations 2023, which come into force on 6 April.
‘Higher-risk buildings’ are defined under the Act as buildings in England containing at least two residential units and which either measure at least 18 metres in height or are at least seven storeys tall. The government has the power to amend the thresholds.
In its consultation response, the government confirmed that PAPs can designate an agent to assist with the application to register occupied higher-risk buildings with the building safety regulator. However, it said responsibility for the application and the accuracy of the information will remain with the PAP. The government recommended that the PAP carry out their own due diligence when the application is made to check its accuracy.
Building safety expert Laura White of Pinsent Masons said: “Where PAPs appoint an agent to register a higher-risk building on their behalf, the PAP will remain accountable for the accuracy of the information provided. The legal responsibility for compliance with the duty won’t pass to the agent. PAPs will need to plan their approach to this and it will be really important for those who have appointed agents to make sure those agents have the requisite skills, knowledge, experience and behaviours to complete the task.”
The government also confirmed that where the PAP is not an individual, a name and address of a nominated individual will need to be provided to the regulator. The regulator will be able to pursue the individual who submitted the information if it transpires the information provided is fraudulent or misleading – regardless of whether an accompanying statement regarding the truthfulness and accuracy of the information is provided.
The government’s consultation response further confirmed that the principal accountable person will be obliged to notify the regulator of any changes being made to the building within 14 days of them becoming aware of the change, despite apparent concern from industry around the lack of flexibility in respect of this timeframe to account for holidays. The government’s rational for this is that the principle accountable person should have knowledge of any proposed changes before they are completed and so 14 days gives enough time for the regulator to be notified. Further guidance on the notification of changes is to be provided in due course, however.
The government said there had been concern raised by industry about the difficulty and cost in obtaining relevant documentation to meet the obligation, at the time of registration, to confirm whether to their knowledge the building met appropriate building standards applying at the time of completion. However, it responded by stating that the principal accountable person would need the information as to whether the building met the appropriate building standards at the time of construction for the purposes of establishing a golden thread of information and for producing a safety case report in any event.
The paper also confirmed that there will be a new process for principal accountable persons to request a review of decisions regarding building registration and safety case requirements made by the regulator. The outcome of that review will be appealable to the first-tier tribunal.
Building safety law expert Katherine Metcalfe of Pinsent Masons said: “These are sensible measures to allow registration to take place efficiently. The government’s response to the rest of its consultation on occupied higher-risk buildings is required urgently so that duty holders understand what they need to do next once the building is registered.”
Reporting by Polly Geddes of Pinsent Masons.
18 Jan 2023
06 Apr 2022