Property Management – Proposed Changes to Legislation

Following the tragedy of the Grenfell Tower disaster, the Government began to take steps to define changes in legislation relating to residential building safety. In our role as a specialist property management company we of course help our clients navigate existing legislation, but we also help to keep our clients and our industry aware of upcoming legislative changes and what they might mean.

Here we summarise some proposed changes that we are likely to see implemented during 2020 as part of a scheduled Building Safety Bill. These changes to legislation in the property and housing industry have been heavily influenced by a report prepared by Dame Hackett following the Grenfell Tower disaster.

First of all, it is proposed that a fundamental cultural change be made in the industry where safety is the main priority and residents of flats are to have more information made available to them concerning health and safety and fire safety relating to the buildings in which they live. There will be a stringent approach to accountability over the whole life-cycle of the building. This is the idea of a “Golden Thread” of documents to be kept for the life of the building most likely in digital format and to be made available to all residents.

Roles & Responsibilities

Duty holders (defined below) are to be appointed to be responsible through the three key stages of a building’s life i.e.

  • Design
  • Construction
  • Management of the building

The legislation is likely to apply to buildings over 18m in height initially but quite probably will be extended to include all residential properties.

The Accountable Person

An Accountable Person is to be appointed to have responsibility for the fire and health and safety of every building. The Accountable Person will have the following responsibilities:

  • To prepare a Safety Case for the building. This will require him/her to put forward a well-reasoned case to demonstrate that the building is “Safe” and that it has a “Safe Management Plan” in place.

The Safety Case will be a living document to be kept up-to-date at all times with risks being assessed on an ongoing basis. The attitude to be promoted should be if something goes wrong then there is a need to learn from it and to adapt the Building Safety Case accordingly. The Accountable Person would be required to:

  • File Occurrence Reports for the building, for example the failure of a component in the fire detection systems or in the emergency lighting installations in the common parts and details of the actions taken.
  • Appoint a Building Safety Manager
  • Have effective internal processes in place to handle and resolve complaints
  • Prepare a Residents Engagement Strategy (see section below for more information)

Buildings will be licensed as compliant by a Regulator to be appointed by the Government.

The Accountable Person and the Building Safety Manager will be liable for failures and enforcement action will be taken by the Regulator and penalties for non-compliance imposed. However, the Government has recognised that it is very unlikely that a director of a residents management company will be willing to stand as the Accountable Person for a building and it’s more likely therefore that that role will need to be filled as a mandatory appointment. The legislation will likely incorporate the changes that will need to be made to the leases and to the Memorandum and Articles of Association in order to accommodate those changes and to permit the appointment of the Accountable Person and to allow for their remuneration.

The Building Safety Manager

The Building Safety Manager will:

  • Be required to maintain and implement the Safety Case for the building.
  • Be licensed and regulated by the Regulator
  • Be required to operate an effective complaint handling procedure. Residents will be able to escalate a complaint to the Regulator if they have concerns of potential and serious threats to life
  • Provide and make available to residents all information relating to the safety of the building including:
    • All fire risk assessments prepared for the building
    • The outcome of any building safety checks
    • Details of any preventative measures implemented

The Building Services Manager will have only very limited grounds to refuse to provide information to residents. Those grounds for example will be:

  • If there is a risk to the security of the building
  • If there is a risk to the security of a neighbouring building
  • If it will result in data protection breaches

It is likely that the role of Building Safety Manager will be taken on by qualified Property Managers.

The duties and responsibilities of the Accountable Person and the Building Safety Manager are intended to run for the life of the property.

Residents’ Involvement

The residents living in the buildings will be at the heart of the processes defined above. They will have a voice and a role to play in their Residents Engagement Strategy. They will need to be fully involved in the Residents Engagement Plan and it will be the Building Safety Manager’s role to ensure that they are and that they have a general awareness of fire safety to include:

  • Understanding the need to test fire alarms and other equipment
  • Awareness of potential hazards in their homes
  • An understanding of the importance of having an adequate fire rated front door to their flat
  • An understanding of the fire action policy for the building
  • Ensuring that they don’t keep any possessions in the common parts of the property

There will be a statutory requirement imposed on residents of buildings to co-operate with the Building Safety Manager and the Building Safety Manager will be given new powers to ensure that residents do not carry out alterations to the property that undermines its structural integrity, for example:

  • The removal and replacement of fire doors and windows etc
  • Causing damage to or removal of fire safety features within the common parts of the building for example fire extinguishers and fire doors etc

At JCF we circulate to residents as and when necessary, the relevant information that they need in relation to fire safety in their building as well as providing advice on practical steps that they can take to improve fire safety for themselves and all residents. Where a property has site staff then we ensure that they are adequately trained in the general principles of fire safety and prevention.

All the changes summarised here are yet to be implemented and of course any new Bill can undergo changes before it becomes law. As always, we will keep our clients updated when any new legislation comes into effect and explain what, if anything, they will need to do as a result.

If you feel that your property would benefit from a more professional managing agent, get in touch with us today to discuss your property.

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