Building Safety Bill

Written evidence submitted by the Mayor of London (BSB45)

Building Safety Bill Public Bill Committee


· The Mayor of London welcomes the bill, which provides for long-awaited changes to the building safety regime following Dame Judith Hackitt’s Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety.

· However, the Mayor is deeply disappointed that the bill falls significantly short of the action needed to protect London’s leaseholders from responsibility for costs of regulatory failures they played no part in causing.


· Four years on from the Grenfell Tower fire, thousands of Londoners continue to live in a state of constant fear over the safety of their homes and the cost of putting right past failures.

· The Mayor is clear t hat without significant changes, the bill will fall short of meeting its objective of learning the lessons of the Grenfell Tower fire and fail to restore public confidence in the building safety system.

· The Mayor is committed to working with stakeholders to strengthen the bill’s provisions and commends efforts from all sides of the House to bring forward solutions which seek to ease the financial burden on leaseholders and restore public confidence in the building safety system .

· The Mayor will lend his support to cross-party efforts to strengthen provisions in the bill in some of the following ways :

1. Protection for leaseholders once and for all from costs for historic building safety defects they played no part in causing. This includes retrospective protection for those who have already been forced to pay out for remediation and interim safety costs, for which they should never have been held responsible.

2. A change to the definition of higher-risk buildings to ensure that the new building safety regime prioritises the protection of vulnerable residents , regardless of the height of the building in which they live .

3. The removal of choice in building control for buildings of all heights, to ensure a consistent standard across the board , prevent any conflict of interest and prevent a two-tier system .  

· The Mayor is also seeking urgent clarification on a number of areas on which both leaseholders and industry are seeking answers :

1. Transition period - what is the timeline for the transition period?

2. Roles and accountabilities - can the Minister clarify what the interaction between responsible persons named in the Fire Safety Order and the Building Safety Bill and how these will interact ?

3. How the Government defines a risk-based approach and the criteria used to determine what is a proportionate response to risk.

Protection for leaseholders

· Clause 124 of the bill requires landlords to take steps to seek other cost recovery avenues before passing on remediation costs to leaseholders and to inform the leaseholders about what those steps were.

· The Mayor is clear that in the first instance the Government should cover remediation costs upfront to ensure remediation work takes place as swiftly as possible .

· The Mayor is therefore calling for clause 124 to be amended to ensure that leaseholders do not have to p ay any remediation costs . The Mayor notes that the unintended consequence of the clause would be to in effect legislate for the status quo and does not propose a new solution to the problem. The Mayor further notes the efforts of MPs who have proposed solutions that would seek to recoup costs from industry.

· While the Mayor has welcomed the government’s proposed introduction of the developer levy and the Residential Property Development Tax, both of which aim to increase industry contributions towards remediation , he believes that more could and should be raised from industry.

· While the Mayor understands many industry bodies have proactively paid for remediation work without benefiting from government funds, he urges the government to ensure industry contributions reflect the ways in which it has benefitted from the failures of the regulatory system.

· The Mayor believes leaseholders in all affected buildings, regardless of building height, should be protected from covering any costs related to past regulatory failings. This protection should be retrospectively applied to leaseholders who have already made significant out-of-pocket investments in remediation works. The government and the housing and development industry must be prepared to fund in full both cladding and non-cladding remediation works.

Higher risk buildings


· Clause 30 sets out the definition of higher risk buildings as at least 18 metres in height or at least 7 storeys. The Mayor is calling for this definition to be amended in the bill to ensure it includes all supported accommodation, as well as residential care homes, regardless of height.


· The Mayor notes that the definition of higher risk buildings in the Bill includes care homes and hospitals that meet an 18-metre height threshold. However, the Mayor is deeply concerned that this excludes vulnerable people living in buildings below the threshold from access to vital protections under the new regulatory system and is therefore calling for an amendment to rectify this .  

· The Mayor also recognises that defining higher risk buildings using a height threshold will create a two-tier system , where new buildings under 18 metres will not be as scrutin i sed as high rise buildings. The Mayor therefore supports the amendment proposed by the Local Government Agency , through which local authority building control bodies would oversee the regulation of short and medium-rise residential buildings.


Defective Building Claims

· The Mayor believes proposals in clauses 125 and 126 to update the Defective Premises Act should be strengthened. The Act currently stipulates that a leaseholder can make a legal claim for compensation if their dwelling is unfit for habitation, as long as the claim is made within six years of the building being constructed. Clause 126 proposes extending this eligibility period from six to 15 years. The provision also stipulates that claims c ould now be made for defects arising from refurbishment works. Currently, the Act only covers defects arising from construction. Another crucial change is that leaseholders will be able to make claims retrospectively, as long as their claims fall within the eligibility period.


· Whilst the Mayor welcomes moves to provide a much-needed avenue for redress , he is concerned that in reality the cost and time implications of making a legal claim against developers will prevent many leaseholders from benefitting from the measure.


· A successful legal claim against developers may offer an avenue for funding remediation costs. The Mayor would welcome clarification from the Minister that in the first instance the Government would expect building owners and freeholders to make a claim, as they are likely to have more capacity to make claims than individual leaseholders. This expectation would also recognise that fire safety defects typically affect entire buildings rather than individual dwellings , making it more appropriate for the legal claim to come from building owners rather than leaseholders. This expectation would also reflect the legal duty for building owners to prove they have done their due diligence to find all possible sources of funding that do not rely on leaseholders paying.


Changes to the Fire Safety Order

· The Mayor welcomes the Bill’s proposals in clause 134, which introduce changes to the Fire Safety Order, including a duty for fire risk assessments to be completed by competent professionals. Currently, anyone, including building owners themselves, can complete fire risk assessments, undermining the quality of these forms as life safety certificates.

· The Mayor also recommends strengthening the proposed requirement for Responsible Persons to provide specific fire safety information to residents about ‘relevant fire safety matters,’ including any risks identified by the fire risk assessment, and related preventative and protective measures. The Mayor welcomes this change as it will improve residents’ access to safety information about their buildings. However, it is unclear whether this duty for Responsible Persons to share fire safety information extends to prospective residents, and residents who are not leaseholders but tenants in a building. This clause should be strengthened by clarifying that Responsible Persons must proactively share fire safety information, including fire risk assessments in full, with prospective and current residents, including both leaseholders and tenants.

Building control

· The Hackitt report identified the ability of dutyholders to choose their own building control body as a major weakness of the current regulatory regime. The Mayor welcomes the Building Safety Bill’s removal of dutyholder choice in this respect. However, given that the bill applies to buildings over 18 metre s, the ability to choose building control bodies remains intact for dutyholders of buildings not in scope.

· The Mayor supports amendments to the bill that would prohibit dutyholders of any residential building from choosing their own building control body.

October 2021


Prepared 19th October 2021