When the government introduced the Building Safety Act 2022, traditional building safety management was effectively turned on its head. Previously, owners and landlords were able to pass a building to an agent and instruct them to manage safety on their behalf, but the act – and specifically the introduction of the ‘accountable person’ (AP) – changes that.
APs are now responsible for driving and ultimately delivering safety for those who reside within their properties. This new regime places considerable accountability on organisations that own high-risk buildings and, in turn, on the directors and officers themselves. The new offence of ‘consent, connivance and neglect’ means that such directors cannot hide behind the corporate veil.
Directors must ensure they are satisfied that safety within their buildings is where it needs to be, and that they have all the management systems, technical information and technology in place.
As detailed within the act – and with very few exceptions – an organisation (or person) is either an AP or they are not. While they may ask an agent to help them discharge their duties, they cannot pass on the role or accountabilities to that agent.
Indeed, in a recent consultation, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) made it clear that an AP may designate an agent to submit an application or register a building on their behalf, with the agent acting as the point of contact for the regulator.
However, DLUHC made it abundantly clear for the avoidance of doubt that the legal requirements detailed within the act could not be transferred or delegated to an agent. For example, if the AP appoints an agent to submit an application and it is not submitted in time, it is the AP who commits the offence – not the agent.
APs, board directors and others have to prepare now for the changes that are coming. Time is running out and most agents can provide only limited support, partly due to insurance or competent resources.
Rosalind Benjamin is founder, chief executive and chairperson and David Hills is senior director at consultancy Ark Workplace Risk
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