Draft Building Safety Bill – What should housing associations be thinking about now?
In our previous article ‘The Draft Building Safety Bill – Everything you need to know explained’, we explained what the draft bill involved, how we can expect it to change the industry and what the next steps would be.
Now we will dive into what landlords and housing associations should be considering going forward.
What are the new regulations?
Dame Judith Hackitt, who is leading the board that is overseeing the creation of a new Building Safety Regulator, has stated that company owners need to start making changes to their working practises immediately, and has announced plans to recognise companies that reform their practises before the new building regulations are mandatory in 2023.
The new regulations will focus on three main areas; the safety and standard of all buildings, assuring the safety of higher-risk buildings; and improving the competence of the people responsible for overseeing, managing and delivering the building works.
Dame Judith Hackitt has also spoken openly to organisations asking them to reflect and evaluate the ‘shameful legacy of regulatory failure’, in addition to the numerous breaches of tenant safety.
However, key to note is that Dame Judith has also congratulated the housing sector for the way it has dealt with the current Coronavirus pandemic, stating that this is proof that the industry can change its working practices when needed to, highlighting that if the industry can do so change for one reason it can for another – this being an overall improvement to building safety standards.
Dame Judith Hackitt has also pinpointed that there are a number of companies who are acting as ‘early adopters’ to the planned changes, but has called on further change as too many building owners are not doing anything.
Alongside this Tim Galloway, the Deputy Director of the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) Building Safety Programme (which will become the Building Safety Regulator when the Building Safety Bill becomes law) spoke at Inside Housing’s Housing Safety Conference a couple of weeks ago. There Tim emphasised the need for organisations to start preparations now rather than waiting for the new regime to be implemented.
Galloway also highlighted that he is looking for the housing sector to embrace the bill and the proposals, and that he will be looking to the sector to give him confidence on this and demonstrate that they understand what is required.
So, what should landlords and housing providers be thinking about now?
- What is the risk profile of your residential buildings? Do you have any that are 18 metres or more, as these will be covered by the Bill when it becomes law (likely to be autumn 2022)? If you have buildings of this height you will be required to appoint a Building Safety Manager and prepare a Building Safety Case for each building within scope, by that date.
- If you need to appoint one or more Building Safety Managers, how are you going to do that – do you have resource and capacity already that you can upskill and develop to meet the likely competence requirements, or do you need to add to your team?
As many organisations will be looking to recruit a Building Safety Manager, the talent pool will be highly sought after – therefore you will need to act quickly.
- Are you starting to scope out what you will include in your Building Safety Cases? If you do not have buildings that are within scope of the Bill, are you going to be proactive and document how you will keep them safe?
- Are building safety principles embedded in the day-to-day management of your higher risk blocks, and do all staff and contractors who deliver services in these premises understand their role in keeping the building and those who live in it safe? For example, are your repairs staff or contractors trained in fire safety and the specific requirements to maintain compartmentation when carrying out works, and is this part of your procurement approach? Do your tenancy management teams understand the risks that may arise within the buildings they work in, and are they trained to manage them?
- Do you have data management and IT systems which will enable you to maintain the ‘golden thread’ of information, and provide those who need it with access to the information to ensure your buildings are safe and that risks are being managed? This will need to include data on how programmes and risks are managed on a day-to-day basis, as well as information on how the building has been constructed so it can be used to maintain that design intent.
- Do you have governance arrangements which support a positive safety culture, and do they provide you with assurance across all aspects of building safety so you can demonstrate that your buildings and residents are being kept safe?
- What is the relationship with your residents like? Do you have a trust-based relationship, and are residents able to raise concerns and have them escalated if they are worried about any aspect of safety within their building? How are you going to involve them in managing the safety of their building, and are you thinking about innovative ways to reach out to them?
If you are thinking about any of the points above, we can provide you with support and advice when looking at what these new regulations mean for you and when planning what you need to do to ensure compliance with the government’s proposals and expectations on building safety in high risk buildings.
How Pennington Choices can help…
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At Pennington Choices, we offer registered providers and property owners a range of advice and services to their housing and management issues. Having worked for over 20 years, delivering projects to property providers and landlords nationally, we have significant consulting experience. For more information on how we can help your organisation, or to have a chat about the new Building Safety Measures, get in touch with our Head of Consultancy, Sarah Davies, by clicking here.