The Building Safety Act 2022 is, without a doubt, a positive step for many homeowners.
It introduced in response to several high-profile incidents. Most notably, the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in London – which highlighted the desperate need for stricter regulations and protections when it comes to building safety and prompted a reform in the law.
Following the fire, thousands of flat owners faced huge bills to rectify the life-threatening cladding issues. Through no fault of their own, they were left paying for expensive remedial work, higher insurance premiums and extra safety precautions. And those who wanted to sell, simply couldn’t.
Fast forward 6 years to 2023, and what exactly has changed for these flat owners?
A ground-breaking act (albeit with conditions)
Coming into force on April 1st 2023, the Building Safety Act is ground-breaking for several reasons.
For a start, it aims to improve the design, construction and management of higher-risk buildings.
Three new bodies have been introduced – a new building safety regulator, the National Regulator of Construction Products and the New Homes Ombudsman Service. All of which will now be responsible for overseeing building safety and enforcing compliance with regulations.
Secondly, the act eradicates the idea that leaseholders should be responsible for paying the whole cost of remedial work for historical safety defects (such as cladding). And aims to enable long-term leaseholders to finally sell their properties and move on with the rest of their lives.
However, as with most things in law, a few conditions apply.
To benefit from the protection of these new building safety regulations, you need to be a qualifying leaseholder, in a relevant building with a qualifying defect.
Qualifying criteria of the Building Safety Act 2022
If you’re one of the many homeowners currently in this unfortunate and incredibly unfair situation, do you (as the tenant) and your building qualify under the new Building Safety Act?
For your building to qualify:
- It must be over 11 metres in height or have more than five floors.
- It must contain at least two dwellings.
- It must not be owned by you as the leaseholder.
This means it may not be eligible if the building is run by a residents’ management company.
- The lease to the property must have been granted before 14th February 2022.
For you, as the tenant, to qualify:
- The property must be your main home.
- You must not have owned more than three UK dwellings when you purchased the property.
- You need to have a ‘long lease’, granted for a term that exceeds 21 years.
The new regulations are certainly very complex and other provisions do apply. However, if you fit the above criteria and your building has a relevant defect, the landlord will now be legally obliged to investigate alternative funding sources – before they can pass any remediation costs on to you.
These alternative funding sources can include:
- Grants available under the building safety fund
- Insurance policies
- Guarantees and indemnities
- Developers (or other people involved in the design and works of the building)
- Personal finances (if they have a net worth over £2 million)
In addition, only certain costs can now be passed on to you as the leaseholder and extra provisions apply that cap what can be legally claimed – which depends on the value of your property.
Selling a property under the Building Safety Act 2022
If you and your building qualify for protection, and you wish to sell your property, the act has now made this possible. You simply need to present two certificates to the buyer.
- The Leaseholder’s Certificate
This is executed as a deed and is a self-certification exercise.
As the leaseholder, you will need to answer a series of questions and provide supporting evidence for your answers. This is designed to establish whether the lease in question qualifies for protection and provides a permanent record of who owned and occupied the property on the 14th February 2022.
- The Landlord’s Certificate
The landlord of the property is also required to serve a certificate, which clearly states what (if any) remediation works are required and whether the leaseholder will be liable for any of the cost.
By no means is this new legislation perfect. A few issues have already arisen, particularly within the residential conveyancing sector.
One of the main concerns for conveyancers is liability.
In Part 1 and Part 2 of the UK Finance Handbook, the current wording implies that conveyancing solicitors should explain the requirements of the legislation to the lender and lay clients, as well as verify the information provided in both the Leaseholder’s Certificate and Landlord’s Certificate.
Not only is this likely to fall outside their area of expertise, but it’s also impossible to do without taking on an unacceptable level of risk and confirming information they’re not capable of checking.
For this reason, many solicitors are now (perhaps unsurprisingly) unwilling to get involved. A recent study found that over half of the conveyancing solicitors surveyed had already ceased their involvement with transactions of leasehold properties affected by the Building Safety Act.
However, it’s worth noting, the Law Society is now lobbying for changes to the new building safety legislation – to help clarify the provisions causing concern and reduce this reluctance.
Residential conveyancing at St Helens Law
Here at St Helens Law, residential conveyancing is one of our key specialities.
Our residential property department is made up of a team of skilled, knowledgeable and experienced conveyancing solicitors. And whatever your current circumstances, we’re happy to discuss any aspect of your property sale needs – on an initially free and informal basis.
Perhaps you’d like further information on the Building Safety Act and how it could be beneficial? Maybe you’re unsure if the act applies to you? Or would like advice on the best steps to take, if trying to sell a property with a safety defect? To find out more, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.
The easiest way to contact us is to give us a call on 01744 742360. Alternatively, you can send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org or fill out our online contact form. Enquiries are always welcome, and we’ll respond to your message as soon as possible.