On 22 March 2022, as part of a series of amendments, the Government announced that they were scrapping the legal requirement for building owners to appoint a Building Safety Manager as part of the then Building Safety Bill.

With the proposed new role having been announced mid-2020, many social housing landlords have successfully employed Building Safety Managers to comply with the proposed legislation, so why scrap it now?

Plainly, it is the age old answer to many questions – cost. However, this time, it isn’t the Government who are struggling to meet with financial burdens.

The amendment comes as a response to the voices of many concerned leaseholders regarding the cost implications of the originally suggested role. To give some context to this, according to a number of popular employment websites, the role of Building Safety Manager could earn anything between £51,000 - £80,000 per year. This overhead is just one of many other costs that would form “building safety charges”, in addition to regular service charges to the occupiers of high rise residential properties.

According to Inside Housing, Michael Gove (Housing Secretary), acknowledged the changes, saying that “no leaseholder should pay the price for shoddy development and we have listened to their concerns, removing the requirement for a separate building safety charge and scrapping compulsory Building Safety Managers, to help avoid unnecessary costs.”

We previously discussed the role of Building Safety Manager in our own blog, “The Building Safety Act 2022: Everything you need to know in 5 minutes” , so what has changed as a result of the recently axed role?

Let’s take a look at the roles created by the Building Safety Act 2022:

Role     What does this role do? How has this role changed after recent amendments?

Building Safety Regulator

•  Oversees the safety and performance of buildings.
 
•  Helps the industry and building control professionals to improve their competence.

Leads implementation of the new regulatory framework for high-rise buildings.

The Regulator, lpart of the HSE, has not changed as a result of recent amendments and will gain formal powers when the Building Safety Act is implemented.

The Building Safety Regulator will work with other agencies such as local authorities, fire and rescue services and building control bodies to exercise best practice.

Accountable Person

(building owner, freeholder, or management company)
•  Ongoing duty to assess building safety risks.

 Provide a ‘Safety Case Report’ which demonstrates how building safety risks are being identified, mitigated, and managed on an ongoing basis.
 
•  Demonstrate how they are ensuring residents’ safety.

In the original proposed bill, the Accountable Person had to appoint a Building Safety Manager to support in the planning, managing, and monitoring of the various tasks necessary to ensure that Accountable Persons’ duties are complied with.

Amendments to the Bill removed the clause which would have required the Accountable Person to appoint a Building Safety Manager. The Accountable Person’s responsibilities for complying with the overall requirements of the now-approved Building Safety Act are unchanged and just as onerous, and they will have to put in place appropriate arrangements to ensure they meet these. The Accountable Person will therefore have the flexibility to determine what staffing structures, skills and competencies are appropriate for their risks and ensure people are trained to carry out the function.

 

Building Safety Manager •  Support the Accountable Person in the planning, managing, and monitoring of day to day tasks to ensure that Accountable Persons’ duties are complied with.

This role has now been scrapped as part of the bill, according to Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, “in order to engrain flexibility into the regime and ensure Accountable Persons cannot hide from their responsibilities.”

The government have said this decision will also slash the costs incurred by leaseholders as a result of the bill, by an average of £60,000 for every 4-6 blocks. However, the removal of this prescribed role does not change the remainder of the duties that fall to the Accountable Person, and so it is unclear whether this saving will materialise in practice.

 

With the removal of the Building Safety Manager role, the Building Safety Regulator is to issue guidance for Accountable Persons on how to fulfil their role compliantly and in its entirety without the previously suggested support system of a Building Safety Manager.

Although the Government have officially justified the scrapping of the role to “ensure Accountable Persons cannot hide from their responsibilities”, there may be multiple Accountable Persons for more complex buildings where it is “not easily possible to identify a single Accountable Person for the entire building”. In this instance, a Principal Accountable Person must be identified, whom will carry additional responsibilities, which you can check out here, and will have to ensure that the overall duties for the building are met.

It might appear that the Government are actively shielding leaseholders from potential financial responsibility and strain as a result scrapping the role. However, the amendment has potential to muddy transparency about costs as it could be absorbed elsewhere, such as in service charges for blocks, and therefore leaving leaseholders and residents to foot the bill once again.