Reforms to building safety became a priority in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster. The reform came in the form of the Building Safety Act 2022 which addresses the way in which residential buildings are constructed and maintained, and includes stronger protections for leaseholders. Compliance with the new legislation will be monitored by the Building Safety Regulator. The new regulator will have significant powers to demand documentation and stop works. In addition, a new national regulator for construction products will possess the power to remove dangerous products from the market.

Many leaseholders have suffered significant problems in the wake of the disaster. They have often been left accountable for flammable cladding of which they were unaware at the time of purchase. The new legislation implements a ‘waterfall’ system which means residents are last in line for liability concerning the replacement of cladding and non-cladding works.

Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety contained specific provisions for architects. Architects will face more scrutiny, generally and have a duty of competence when carrying out design or building work, possessing relevant skills, knowledge, experience, and behaviours. A new CPD scheme including criteria for training and monitoring is currently under consultation and is likely to be in place before the end of 2023.

The Act also strengthens protection for leaseholders by extending the limitation period for claims brought under section 1 of the Defective Premises Act (DPA) 1972. The claims period extends from 6 to 30 years for work already completed. The claims period for work completed in the future extends from 6 to 15 years. Professional bodies, such as the RIBA have raised doubts as to the effectiveness of these amendments citing concerns over insuring such liabilities.

Controls around the sale of dangerous construction products and misleading marketing practices are also addressed in the Act. Companies who do sell products that are defective or marketed in a misleading way will be held liable to pay damages to people with a relevant interest in affected buildings.

Some ambiguity remains, however, as the Act introduces no further changes to Approved Document B (Fire Safety). Confusion still remains as to the definition of compliance and how it is ultimately achieved. Despite this however, the Act itself is set to improve standards and safety in higher risk buildings.


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