UK Building Safety Act update: building assessment certificates, the golden thread and what’s coming next

Hogan Lovells

Hogan Lovells

2024 has brought with it a raft of new building safety legislation. Here is an update on what’s new – particularly in relation to building assessment certificates and the golden thread of information.

Building assessment certificates

What is a building assessment certificate?

The deadline for registration of higher-risk buildings (at least 18 metres or 7 storeys high with at least 2 residential units) was 1 October 2023. The register is now live, and can be accessed here.

Now that higher-risk buildings are registered, the next step is for the building safety regulator to assess their safety and, if the accountable person (AP) (or principal accountable person)(PAP) has complied with their duties to assess and manage building safety risks, issue a building safety certificate.

If the building safety regulator is not satisfied the AP has met their obligations, they can either refuse the application for a building assessment certificate (dealt with below), or set out the steps which need to be taken for a certificate to be issued.

How do I apply for a building assessment certificate?

The process is set out in in sections 79-111 of the Building Safety Act, enacted through the Building Safety Act 2022 (Commencement No. 6) Regulations 2024, and the supporting regulations set out in the Higher-Risk Buildings (Management of Safety Risks etc) (England) Regulations 2023, both of which came into force on 13 January 2024.

The AP must produce various documents demonstrating compliance with their duties to assess and manage building safety risks when applying for a building safety certificate, including a safety case report, summarising the safety case for a high-rise residential building by identifying the building’s safety risks and how they are being managed.

The AP must also provide details of :

  • the mandatory occurrence reporting system - which requires duty-holders to report any “safety occurrences” relating to the structural integrity or fire safety of higher-risk buildings to the building safety regulator;
  • information provided to the regulator and residents; and
  • a copy of any residents’ engagement strategy.

When do I need to apply for a building assessment certificate?

The AP or PAP does not need to apply pre-emptively for a building assessment certificate, and will be directed by the building safety regulator to do so – after which they will have 28 days to provide the supporting information outlined above.

The building safety regulator indicated it would allow a transitional period to allow APs to get up to speed with the new regime, but would start the enormous task of assessing the c. 12,500 higher-risk buildings within 6-12 months of the 1 October 2023 registration deadline. This means that the regulator will start calling for applications for building assessment certificates from 1 April 2024 onwards.

However, the obligation to assess and manage building safety risks arises as soon as the building becomes occupied, or as soon as a person becomes the accountable person for the building, not just when the regulator directs the AP to apply.

This means anyone who is an AP needs to be preparing these documents now, and  must continue to carry out regular assessments of building safety risks, whether or not they have been invited to apply for a building assessment certificate.

Failure to comply with these obligations could lead to the regulator issuing a “compliance notice”, breach of which is a criminal offence.

Golden Thread – further regulations

One of the key recommendations following the Hackitt report was the introduction of a “golden thread” of information, to be collated and provided by building owners to share with residents, the building safety regulator, and fire and rescue authorities.

Section 88 and 89 of the Building Safety Act put this into effect, by requiring the AP for a higher-risk building to keep and provide “prescribed information” and “prescribed documents”.

Various regulations came into force in 2023 dealing with gathering and managing the golden thread of information:

The Building (Higher-Risk Buildings Procedures) (England) Regulations 2023 deal with the design and construction of higher-risk buildings, and works carried out to them, and set out the obligation to produce, maintain and store golden thread information.

The Higher-Risk Buildings (Management of Safety Risks etc) (England) (Regulations) 2023 which, as set out above, came into force on 13 January, set out the standards for keeping golden thread information, specified the electronic format in which it must be kept, and when and how it should be provided.

The Higher-Risk Buildings (Keeping and Provision of Information etc.) (England) Regulations 2024 which also came into force on 13 January, deal with the golden thread of information to be kept by the AP, and duties to provide documents to the regulator and other responsible persons or APs, or a “client” for whom works to the building are being carried out.

Schedule 1 to the regulations sets out “prescribed” information and documents that accountable persons are required to keep under section 88 of the Building Safety Act.

This encompasses vast amounts of information and documents, which we have not set out in full here, but it includes:

  • registration information;
  • key building information (which is provided with the application to register);
  • any application for a building assessment certificate, and the information provided with it.
  • a list of any structural safety measures put in place, maintenance and repair works and inspections;
  • details of complaints (and any resolution), and information reported under a mandatory occurrence reporting system in the last 7 years;
  • information the accountable person is required to give to residents or owners of residential units;
  • plans of the building, records of the design and materials of the external walls and floor plans and completion certificates;
  • the safety case report; and
  • any contravention notices issued in the last 5 years.

Schedule 2 then sets out the information and documents to be provided to residents or owners of residential units, which includes summaries of the safety case report, information about the AP (or PAP), the regulator and the responsible person, and the residents’ engagement strategy, including details of the complaints process. 

Regulation 14 and Schedule 3 deal with the information or documents the accountable person is required to provide to a resident or owner of a flat on request.

The regulations also set out when documents need to be provided to third parties, including the regulator, other accountable persons, and residents (among others).

The regulations also set out various exceptions to provision of information for reasons of security, commercial sensitivity, or personal data.

Key takeaway

When called upon by the regulator, accountable persons will have just 28 days to submit an application for a building assessment certificate.  The actions required to make that application will take significantly longer than 28 days.  Accountable persons therefore need get their house in order now. Property managers need to be familiar with the requirements, progressing safety case reports and implementing the reporting systems and residents engagement strategies now to avoid accountable persons being caught out later. 

All owners of higher-risk buildings should establish whether they are the accountable person for the building and, if so, ensure that wheels are in motion to ensure they will be able to obtain a building assessment certificate if/when called upon to apply for one.

What’s coming next?

The Building Safety Act 2022 (Commencement No. 7 and Transitional Provisions) Regulations 2024 were made on 28 January 2024, and will come into force on 6 April 2024, making building control a regulated profession through the appointment of registered building control inspectors and approvers.

[View source.]

DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

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