Understanding the new building safety rules (April 2023)


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Understanding the new building safety rules (April 2023)

If there was any doubt surrounding the UK’s building safety regulations, then 2017’s Grenfell Tower tragedy served as a stark reminder to everyone.

In the aftermath the government conducted a full review into the cause of the tragedy and the validity of the building and fire safety regulations surrounding it. In 2018, a report entitled ‘Building a Safer Future, Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety: Final Report’ was published, in which more than 50 recommendations were made to initiate change.

Highlighted within the report, was the inadequacy of audit trails of information throughout a building’s lifecycle, which then led to buildings being falsely deemed as safe.

On the back of this incident and report, the Building Safety Act 2022 (BSA) was announced, which contained a range of provisions that have gradually been introduced since it received royal assent in April 2022.

In April 2023, 44 sections of the Act and three regulations came into force, including the Higher-Risk Buildings (Key Building Information etc) (England) Regulations 2023 (SI 2023/396).These regulations set out what information is prescribed under the 2022 Act as ‘key building information’ for a higher risk building  and the duties of a principal accountable person (“PAP”) Here we look in more detail at those provisions.


One of the most important aspects of the new regulations is the requirement for all occupied high-risk buildings to be listed on a register set up by the Buildings Safety Regulator, with immediate effect.

A registration deadline of October 1st was also provided, creating a sense of urgency for those whose buildings fall under the scope of the Act, as failure to comply could result in an investigation, eventual prosecution and either an unlimited fine or 2 years imprisonment.

The definition of a high-risk building

A high-risk building is defined as one which is 18 metres or 7 storeys high and contains 2 or more residential units. For hospitals or care homes, the construction status of the building will determine whether it can be registered.

Those buildings that meet the above criteria, but are still in the design and construction phase, will still be labelled as a high-risk building. Once a building of this type is occupied, however, it is excluded from the requirement to be registered as it is then covered by the regulations contained within the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 (Order). This also applies to prisons and other secure residential institutions.

It may seem straightforward upon first review, however there are some complicating factors that must be taken into account. For example, the building’s height needs to be measured from the ground level on the lowest side to the top of the highest occupied storey – not roof.

The question of plant and machinery also needs to be considered, since the definition of a high-risk building does include buildings with individual rooms which contain plant or machinery.

Further complications arise if the building in question features a gallery floor. According to the regulations any storey which consists of a gallery floor (a raised floor or platform which is open to the room or space into which it projects and which is at least 1.8 metres above the surface of the main floor) doesn’t need to be counted as a storey in its own right, providing the floor area of the gallery is less than 50% of the largest storey either above or below.

These examples demonstrate the potential complications and pitfalls that individuals need to navigate, as a lack of compliance can quickly develop into a legal headache, with the potential punishments severe in some cases. For those confused by the announcements and would like more clarity on the situation, it is important to seek legal advice before making any costly decisions.

The Accountable Person (“AP”) and Principal Accountable Person (“PAP”)

The accountable person is the person responsible for building safety risks when a building is occupied. There can be several accountable persons for a building but only one of them will be the principal accountable person.

A landlord can also be considered a ‘PAP’, as they have a repairing obligation in relation to relevant parts of a building’s structure and exterior, despite not having legal estate. Besides registering the building, a ‘PAP’ must also provide Key Building Information to the Buildings Safety Regulator, which must be submitted within 28 days of the initial registration.

If any information changes within this period, then it is also their duty to notify regulators. The initial information required upon application includes;

  • The details of the ‘PAP’, including their contact details
  • The type of any organisation which employs the ‘PAP’
  • Details of any person making the initial application on behalf of the ‘PAP’
  • A single point of contact if the ‘PAP’ is an organisation rather than an individual
  • A description of the building
  • Details of the building control framework in place
  • Any building certificate which is applicable

Once an application to register a high-risk building with the Buildings Safety Regulator has been submitted the ‘PAP’ has 28 days in which to submit the Key Building Information, and this should include the following:

  • The name, address and postcode of the building
  • The height of the building in metres
  • The number of floors in the building
  • The ‘PAP’
  • Any other Accountable Person(s)
  • The parts of the building for which the Accountable Persons are accountable
  • The year in which the building was fully constructed
  • If the building is a new-build, confirmation of the completion certificate

From October 1st, a ‘PAP’ will be held responsible for any unregistered yet occupied building, so it is vital that they complete the process via a portal set up by the Buildings Safety Regulator.