Earlier this week, the government published the draft bill, which included mention of the new role of the accountable person, who will ‘have to listen and respond’ to concerns and ensure resident are heard, called the accountable person. There will also be resident and leaseholder access to ‘vital’ safety information about buildings, and new complaints handling requirements for ‘effective action’.

The BSR will ‘oversee all this and make sure that accountable persons are carrying out their duties properly’, and ‘ensure that high rise buildings and the people who live in them are being kept safe’, with ‘new powers to raise and enforce higher standards of safety and performance across all buildings’. Resident panels will be appointed to have a voice in developing the regulator’s work.

The government will also be ‘speeding up’ its work with finance and insurance sectors to protect leaseholders from fire safety costs ‘without relying on tax payers’ money’, while a new building safety charge will make it ‘easy for leaseholders to see and know what they are being charged for’. To ensure these costs are affordable, the government has ‘deliberately included powers to limit’ costs that can be re-charged to leaseholders.

‘For the first time’ new build buyers will be able to complain to a new homes ombudsman, and developers will have to be a member of the scheme, with the ombudsman having the power to require they ‘pay compensation’. For construction, the bill will ‘fully establish’ the BSR to ‘enforce new rules and take strong actions against those who break them’, ensuring they are ‘accountable for any mistakes’.

The BSR’s three functions including overseeing safety and standards of all buildings; ‘directly’ assuring safety of higher risk buildings; and improving the competence of those ‘responsible for managing and overseeing’ works. A ‘more stringent’ set of rules for high rises will apply when buildings are ‘designed, constructed and then later occupied’, with each stage making it ‘clear who is responsible for managing the potential risks and what is required to move to the next stage’.

This ties into the “golden thread” of ‘vital information about the building’, and buildings need to be registered with the BSR as well as apply for a building assurance certificate. The accountable person will then need to ‘conduct and maintain’ a safety case risk assessment and appoint a building safety manager ‘to oversee it day to day’, with building inspectors ‘responsible for signing buildings off as safe for people to live in’ also having to follow the rules and register with the regulator.

Additionally, the government will have the power to ‘better regulate’ construction materials and products, and ‘ensure they are safe to use’. Ministers will appoint the UK’s first chief inspector of buildings, who will lead the new regulator ‘to make sure effective action is taken where concerns are raised’.

Landlord Zone reported on the leaseholder poll, which found that 70% ‘are worried’ by the government move to ‘press more responsibilities on them’ in the building safety bill. The ‘extra duties for building management and safety’, the news outlet noted, ‘will hand those who manage apartment blocks increased financial and legal obligations’ such as the accountable person, with ‘expected moves’ this week by the government to ‘reform the leasehold system’.

This is said to follow the Law Commission reports, and freeholders argue this will ‘remove them from the equation if ground rents are abolished’, transferring the new responsibilities to both leaseholders and commonholders. The poll was commissioned by the UK’s leading freeholders, and found that if these changes were to be made ‘many leaseholders believe it would be “a disaster”’.

Another 67% said they were ‘worried about the extra admin and neglect of building maintenance’, while 65% ‘foresaw personal health and safety as an issue’ because many leaseholders had a ‘lack of awareness around certain issues and understanding of up-to-date legislation’. In turn, 63% ‘fear conflict with other residents’ over decision making.

Richard Silva, executive director of residential freeholder Long Harbour, stated: ‘The Government is right to be introducing these new reforms to building safety, but this new evidence clearly shows that leaseholders do not want to be landed with these responsibilities themselves. As professional freeholders, we are perfectly positioned and equipped to take on these legal and financial responsibilities, but this will be impossible if the Government drives freeholders out of the market by removing our financial incentive, in the form of a reasonable ground rent.’