Today has seen the publication of the eagerly anticipated Final Report from the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety, otherwise known as the “Hackitt Review”.
Details of the report can be accessed here.
The report calls for a new regulatory framework that will improve standards for both new and existing higher-risk residential buildings. The proposed new system should contain greater accountability and responsibility to ensure that those undertaking building work make careful judgements about how to make the building safe.
The report includes a detailed set of recommendations including:
- A less prescriptive, outcomes-based approach to the regulatory framework to be overseen by a new regulator that can drive the right behaviours;
- Clearer roles and responsibilities throughout the design and construction process and during occupation, to ensure real accountability for building safety;
- Residents to be consulted and involved in decisions affecting the safety of their home and listened to if they have concerns;
- A more rigorous and transparent product testing regime and a more responsible marketing regime;
- Industry to lead on strengthening competence of all those involved in building work and to establish an oversight body.
There is much in the report to welcome, particularly in relation to the need for a strengthening of the Residents Voice. Perhaps most fundamentally is the need for a ‘culture change in the relationship between landlords and residents so that the good practice that already exists becomes the norm across the whole sector’.
Other key recommendations around the need to strengthen residents’ voices include:
- Those with a responsibility for complex buildings – the “dutyholder” – to have a statutory duty to proactively provide residents with a set of information that supports residents to understand the layers of protection in place to keep their building safe. There are also calls for this requirement to extend to other multi-occupancy residential buildings.
- Residents to have the right to access fire risk assessments, safety case documentation and information on maintenance and asset management that relates to the safety of their homes, and again, there are calls for this to be extended to other multi-occupancy residential buildings.
- Resident involvement and engagement should be at the heart of the proposed new system. This includes a requirement placed on dutyholders to have a resident engagement strategy in place to support the principles of transparency of information and partnership with residents. The strategy should outline how the dutyholder will share information with residents, how they inform them of their rights and responsibilities, and how they involve residents in decision-making on changes to the building that could impact on safety.
- The recommendations recognise the particular value that can be derived from engaging with resident associations and tenant panels. There is also a recognition of the need for a culture change in the relationship between residents and landlords, and that this change should be supported and promoted by appropriate government investment to build the capability of residents, landlords and building owners to work co-operatively.
- Government should provide funding for organisations working at both local and national level to provide advice, guidance and support to residents, landlords and building owners on effective resident involvement and engagement in order to develop a national culture of engagement for residents of all tenures; and that this should not be limited to high rise building but apply across the sector.
- After internal processes have been exhausted, if residents still have safety concerns about their homes, there should be a clear and quick escalation and redress route available for residents of all tenures to an independent body with access to appropriate knowledge, resources and enforcement powers. This route of redress should be open to all residents of all tenures.
- The dutyholder for high-rise buildings should provide residents with clear information about their obligations in relation to building and fire safety, and residents should meet their obligations to ensure their own safety and that of their neighbours. This requirement should also apply to other multi-occupancy residential buildings.
The government will now consider the recommendations of the review.
TAROE Trust would encourage the government to adopt these recommendations swiftly.
In addition, whilst the recommendations from the Hackitt Review are welcomed, there is a need for further steps to be taken if residents are to both feel safe, and actually be safe in their homes. As a result, the recent government announcement to fund the removal and replacement of dangerous cladding by local authorities and housing associations is welcomed as a positive step.
It is disappointing that the Hackitt Review fell short of calling for an outright ban on the use of combustible materials in cladding fitted to high rise buildings. We are therefore pleased to see that the government has responded swiftly to initiate a review into this matter, with a closing date of 25th May 2018. This will run alongside the current consultation on the banning of ‘desktop studies’ which we have been calling for (see Manifesto for Change) in order to strengthen the existing building safety regime.
If you have any views on any of these developments, we would welcome you getting in touch with us and sharing your thoughts on the changes that are needed to ensure future resident safety.
Darren Hartley, Chief Executive of TAROE Trust, was the Chair of the Residents’ Voice Working Group as part of the Hackitt Review. TAROE Trust has not commented on the technical aspects of the Hackitt Review recommendations, as these are beyond the scope of expertise of the organisation.