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The response to the Grenfell Tower fire

In the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, the Government established the Building Safety Programme and an Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety (the Hackitt Review).

The Hackitt Review identified a need for a new system of regulation for the design, construction and occupation of high-rise residential buildings. The Building Safety Bill takes forward the review’s recommendations and other building related measures. It is the main legislative response to the fire.

At third reading in the House of Lords, the Minister of State for Building Safety and Fire, Lord Greenhalgh, said the Bill presented “the biggest changes to building safety in our history” and that it would protect leaseholders:

The Bill not only addresses the total building safety regulatory system failure head-on but protects leaseholders who are the victims in a building safety crisis. This Bill helps to ensure that there is a more proportionate approach to building safety risk, introduces a cap on the historic building safety costs that leaseholders will have to pay and, finally, provides an extensive set of tools in law that will ensure that the polluter pays.

The Bill’s progress

The Bill has completed its intial Commons and Lords stages. Amendments made in the House of Lords will be considered by the Commons on 20 April 2022.

The Bill page on has up-to-date information on progress of the Bill and amendments made. This includes the Bill as amended on report [HL Bill 144], which was the most up-to-date version of the Bill when this briefing was published.

This briefing covers Lord amendments in Grand Committee, on report and at third reading. A Library briefing on the Building Safety Bill was prepared for second reading and gives an overview of the Bill. A further briefing was drafted to provide updates on the Commons committee stage.

Key Lords amendments

The Bill was substantially amended by the House of Lords both in Grand Committee and on report. Peers expressed concern over the lack of an updated impact assessment to help them assess the costs and benefits of the revisions.

Building safety manager removed

Following concerns raised about building safety managers in relation to accountability, competence and costs to leaseholders, the Government amended the Bill to remove the legal requirement for a building safety manager. Instead, the Government said accountable persons should reflect on their current management arrangements, and that Government would continue to work with industry on improving best practice.

Building safety charge

As a consequence of the removal of the building safety manager provisions, the Bill was amended to remove the building safety charge as a separate charging mechanism. The cost of the new safety regime will still be recoverable from leaseholders, but will be accounted for and recovered via service charges.

Paying for remediation work

On 10 January 2022, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove, announced a revised approach to dealing with building safety for residential buildings between 11 and 18 metres. Instead of a loan scheme, developers of these buildings are expected to meet the cost of cladding remediation work. In the absence of developers’ agreement, the Government will use the levy on building control applications to raise the necessary funding.

On 13 April 2022, the Government said they had “agreed a solution with the housing industry that will see developers commit a minimum of £2 billion to fix their own buildings.” There’s an expectation that a further £3 billion will be raised through the Building Safety Levy over ten years.

In Grand Committee and on report, extensive Government amendments were agreed to which provide the legislative basis for securing contributions from developers and providing more protection for leaseholders in affected blocks.

During debates on the Bill, the Government’s approach has been described as a “waterfall” or “cascade” of responsibility, each stage of which must be exhausted before responsibility passes on.

The Government amendments were welcomed, but peers questioned the degree to which they would deliver on Michael Gove’s commitments of 10 January 2022. On report, non-Government amendments were agreed to:

  • Extend cost protections to leaseholders living in affected blocks of all heights.
  • Extend protections to leaseholders who have exercised the right of collective enfranchisement.
  • Provide that leaseholders are not liable to pay for fire safety remediation work.

At third reading in the Lords, Lord Young of Cookham and others expressed the hope that these amendments would not be overturned in the House of Commons. Attention was also drawn to “unfinished business”, including:

  • responsibility for remediating “orphaned buildings” (where there is no developer and the freeholder and leaseholders cannot afford the work); and
  • “the definition of a qualifying lease and its failure to protect those receiving a state pension who rely on rental income from a lease to sustain themselves.”

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