After many months of deliberation and argument, the Building Safety Bill completed its passage through the House of Lords on 26 April 2022 and received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022. The Building Safety Act 2022 (Act) marks a fundamental change of approach to building safety that applies from a building's design stage and throughout its lifecycle.

The aims of the Act

The Act introduces a new regulatory building safety regime and measures to deal with higher risk buildings in England (the approach of Scotland and Wales is different). The new regime will, once implemented, include three "gateways" through which each building project must pass to ensure building safety requirements and clear responsibilities are met before the project can progress to the next stage.

New provisions will govern construction products and the management of building fire safety risks, as well as competency standards. The Act also aims to provide statutory protections for leaseholders including (in most circumstances) protection from the cost of fixing historic building safety risks. Where an affected building's developer, owner or freeholder is not found or made liable, costs for remedying such risks will be paid from the fund established by the government using the proceeds of a developer levy. The Act enables the government to take action against those who do not pay for remedial works.

Key roles established (or soon to be established) under the Act include the HSE as Building Safety Regulator (with the HSE's Peter Baker appointed as Chief Inspector of Buildings), a national regulator for construction products (which has been established within the Office for Product Safety and Standards), the Architects Registration Board that has the power to monitor architects' competence, the New Homes Quality Board and the New Homes Ombudsman.

The transition to the new regime

Not all of the Act is yet in force: various provisions require new legislation before they can be implemented. However, we do have a good idea of how long that legislation process will take thanks to the government's outline transition plan and timeline published on 5 July 2021. The timeline set out three phases for the Act's implementation.

  • Phase 1 comprised the Bill's passage through Parliament and ended when the Bill received Royal Assent on 28 April 2022.
  • Phase 2 is underway and will cover the gradual introduction of the new regime and the implementation of secondary legislation. Some such legislation is intended to be implemented swiftly (within two months of Royal Assent – i.e. before the end of June 2022) including the changes to the statutory limitation periods for bringing claims under the Defective Premises Act 1972 (from six to 30 years for retrospective claims and to 15 years for prospective claims). Other changes such as the establishment of the Resident Panel and the strengthening of the powers of the Architect's Registration Board are intended to be effected within a year of Royal Assent (i.e. before the end of April 2023).
  • Phase 3 covers the transition to and enforcement of the main regime that is planned to be effected within 18 months of Royal Assent (i.e. by October 2023).

What now?

Developers, contractors and consultants have already had to adapt at the planning stages following the introduction of gateway one in August 2021, but there is still much for businesses within the construction industry to do to prepare for the new regime. Monitoring the introduction of new regulations is essential, as is training of all relevant personnel on the new processes, obligations and provisions imposed by the Act, the new regime and the secondary legislation. Developers must address not only their obligations to carry out remedial works but assess new risks such as an extended period of liability on new projects. Contractors must ensure they allocate responsibilities clearly at each stage of the building process.