Building safety law to establish regulator with power to prosecute rule-breakers

·3-min read

A new building safety regulator will be given powers to prosecute rule-breaking developers and take their properties off the market, the Government has announced.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick will unveil the Building Safety Bill on Monday which contains plans to avert a further tragedy like the Grenfell Tower blaze, which killed 72 people in 2017.

The Bill plans to strengthen regulations for high-rise buildings and impose greater sanctions on those who fail to meet the standards.

The national regulator established by the Bill will have powers to prosecute or use civil penalties against any business that breaks the rules and compromises public safety, the Ministry of Housing said.

Officials said the regulator will be able to remove properties from the market if they are deemed to have defects.

It comes after Mr Jenrick revealed on Sunday that the legislation will more than double the amount of time, from six to 15 years, that residents can seek compensation for “shoddy workmanship” on their property.

The Cabinet minister told the BBC the reform was drawn up after a realisation that some household appliances, such as toasters and fridges, have better guarantees than new homes.

The change will be retrospective so people who live in a property completed in 2010 will have until 2025 to take action on a rogue builder or developer.

Mr Jenrick said: “This Bill will ensure high standards of safety for people’s homes, and in particular for high-rise buildings, with a new regulator providing essential oversight at every stage of a building’s life cycle, from design, construction, completion to occupation.

Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick
Robert Jenrick (Dominic Lipinski/PA)

“The new building safety regime will be a proportionate one, ensuring those buildings requiring remediation are brought to an acceptable standard of safety swiftly, and reassuring the vast majority of residents and leaseholders in those buildings that their homes are safe.”

Other new measures include giving leaseholders and home-owners in buildings containing risks “more routes to raise concerns about safety”, along with “mechanisms to ensure their concerns will be heard and taken seriously”.

It follows complaints that Grenfell residents had their fears over fire safety ignored before the deadly fire.

The Bill will ensure there are “clearly identified people” responsible for safety during the design, build and occupation of a high-rise residential building, according to officials.

The legislation will mainly affect England, with most of the relevant matters devolved to other nations in the Union.

The Ministry of Housing said the proposals build on the Government’s commitment to fully fund the cost of replacing unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings of 18 metres and over in England, through a £5 billion investment in building safety.

The introduction of a new levy and a tax will also ensure that industry pays its fair share towards the costs of cladding remediation, it added.

Mr Jenrick said he expected all dangerous cladding to have been removed by the end of the year.

Labour urged ministers to ensure the legislation ensures leaseholders cannot be billed for fire and building safety remediation works in future – or face a possible defeat.

Shadow housing secretary Lucy Powell said: “If ministers do not legislate to safeguard leaseholders’ livelihoods, we will build on the big cross-party consensus from the Fire Safety Act rebellions to defeat the Government and protect homeowners from colossal costs.”

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