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Accountable Persons - Building Safety Act

Accountable Persons- Building Safety Act

The Act attempts to reduce the risk of residents playing ‘piggy-in-the-middle’ whilst landlords, building management companies, contractors and developers argue about which party is responsible for resolving any given building safety risk.

This has resulted in the creation of two new, crucial, roles which must be filled for each higher-risk building that has been occupied. It’s important to identify at an early stage who is likely to assume these roles.

  • Accountable person(s); and
  • Principal accountable person

A failure to comply with the duties of an accountable person or principal accountable person could lead to criminal prosecution and lead to a custodial sentence. The stakes are high, and it’s important to be prepared to identify whether you hold one of these roles and if so, understand the duties and obligations that you will be required to discharge.

The first part of the test under the Act suggests that the accountable person could be the building owner, which is normally the landlord for higher-risk buildings.

However, it is possible that the leaseholders are also the owners of the building if they own a share of the freehold.

In the context of the Building Safety Act, the "accountable person" plays an important role. This person is responsible for ensuring the building's safety by assessing, managing, and mitigating risks associated with the structure and occupancy of the building. Key responsibilities include:

  • Gathering Information: Collecting detailed data on the building's design, construction, and usage to inform safety assessments.
  • Risk Assessment: Conducting thorough analyses to identify potential fire, structural, and operational hazards.
  • Safety Case Development: Preparing and maintaining a comprehensive safety case report that outlines the risk management strategies and safety measures in place.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Submitting the safety case report to the competent authority for approval and adhering to ongoing regulatory requirements.

Identifying the accountable persons(s)

Identifying the accountable person(s) involves recognising individuals or entities with specific legal responsibilities towards the building's common parts. This can include those who:

  1. Hold a legal estate in possession of any part of the common parts.
  2. Do not hold a legal estate in any part of the building but are under a relevant repairing obligation for the common parts.

The term "relevant repairing obligation" refers to responsibilities for maintenance and repair that do not stem from ownership. There can be multiple accountable persons for different parts of a higher-risk building, and the Act places no restrictions on the number of accountable persons.

It is possible to have a different accountable person for each part of a higher-risk building and the Act does not seek to impose any limits on how many accountable persons there may be.

There is no ‘one size fits all’ approach to identifying who the accountable person(s) is or are and each higher-risk building will need to be reviewed on a building-by-building basis, considering any contractual agreements and how the building is managed. Key points to consider are whether:

  • Landlord
  • Leaseholders (even if they don’t have a share of the freehold)
  • Building management company
  • Developer
  • Contractor
  • The contractor or developer has agreed to take on repairing obligations for a defined period after construction and, if so, which parts of the building this covers
  • There is a building management company managing the building and, if so, whether its role covers the entire building or just certain parts or sections
  • Leaseholders have repairing obligations in their leases

Duties and obligations of the accountable person(s)

Once you have established that you are an accountable person, there will be several obligations and duties imposed upon you.

Ensuring that a Completion Certificate has been issued prior to occupation. A Completion Certificate would be required if:

  • Work has been carried out to construct a new higher-risk building
  • Work has resulted in the creation of additional residential units; or
  • The work carried out on a building would see it become a higher-risk building

The accountable person would commit a criminal offence if a higher-risk building was occupied without a Completion Certificate.

Duties to both assess and manage building safety risks

Accountable persons are responsible for assessing and managing building safety risks for the parts of the building for which they are responsible.

This is to both prevent building safety risks from materialising and when they arise, to reduce the severity of any incident.

Comply with mandatory reporting requirements

This is where the Building Safety Regulator can require that certain information is reported to it as a matter of course, the details of how and when this is required are to be set out by the regulator.

Keeping prescribed information and prescribed standards and keeping that information up to date

This would involve ensuring that the golden thread of information that has been created before and during the project is both maintained and updated, where appropriate, whilst the building is occupied.

It’s important to ensure that any document destruction policies do not see any information deleted. The Act also expects that, where an accountable e person does not hold information, the accountable person will ask for and obtain it.

Respond to residents’ requests for information

The Act expects there to be more engagement with residents on building safety risks going forward. However, this is not an absolute right, and an accountable person cannot be expected to provide information that would otherwise put them in breach of data protection laws.

Identifying the principle accountable person

Unlike the accountable person, there will only be one person who occupies the role of the principal accountable person. This role effectively gives someone overall responsibility for ensuring that building safety risks are being managed appropriately and that the various duties and obligations are being complied with. This is reflected in the nature of the duties that come with this role.

Even where another party, such as a managing agent, acts as an accountable person alongside the landlord, the latter will usually retain the principal role as they ultimately control the premises, make decisions on selecting a managing agent, and usually must approve budgets and capital expenditure as well as other decisions regarding the property.

The Act provides that where there is only one accountable person, that person will automatically become the principal accountable person. If a building has different accountable persons for different parts of the building, the Act states that the principal accountable person will be the one responsible for the structure and exterior of the building.

Principle accountable person

A principal accountable person would be subject to these additional ongoing duties and obligations:

  • Register the building – Details of how to apply for registration and what information is required is to be set out in secondary legislation, although this requirement will apply to both new and existing buildings
  • Applying for a Building Assessment Certificate – Details of how to apply for registration and what information is required is currently unclear, but this requirement will apply to both new and existing buildings
  • Applying for a building assessment certificate – This is something that the Building Safety Regulator can require a principal accountable person to apply for and it’s an opportunity for the Building Safety Regulator to satisfy itself that the various duties and obligations are being complied with, which will result in the issuing of a building assessment certificate
  • Display building assessment certificate in a prominent location – It would be a criminal offence not to
  • Preparation of a safety case report – This is a report that details all the building safety risks identified by the accountable persons in respect of their part and setting out a brief description of what action those accountable persons are taking in relation to those risks
  • Establish and operate a mandatory occurrence reporting system – These ties in with the ongoing duty that accountable persons must report prescribed information to the Building Safety Regulator. It will be the principal accountable person’s responsibility for establishing and creating a framework through which the accountable persons can make these reports
  • Responsibility for preparing a residents’ engagement strategy and establishing a complaints procedure

Download the Accountable Persons PDF

Download the PDF. Call or email Ligtas to discuss any questions you have. Download

If you have any questions on any of the topics covered please contact us at 02922 800 000 or enquiries@ligtas.co.uk

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