Solving the block safety conundrum
Safety is, of course, a key aspect of block management. But who should be responsible for ensuring the safety of residents? In the wake of the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017, Dame Judith Hackitt was asked to carry out a review of the building regulations, putting safety firmly in the spotlight.
Sounds simple? It isn?t, as Andrew Bulmer, the CEO of the Institute of Residential Property Management pointed out in an article earlier this week.
Dame Judith Hackitt chaired the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety set up following the Grenfell Tower tragedy
In her final report, Dame Judith proposes a named individual ? a ?dutyholder? - should be ultimately responsible for the safety of a building. So far so good. That person should be the owner, she suggests. Holding someone to account seems sensible, so what?s the problem?
The difficulty with Dame Judith?s plan is the complexity of our leasehold system, with its matrix of different roles and responsibilities.
As Andrew explains, when the freehold is owned by the leaseholders or commonholders (see my 20th December blog on commonhold reform) through a vehicle such as a Residents Management Company, or Right to Manage Company, that means one of the resident directors will have to stand forward as the ?dutyholder? for the safety of the block. The day-to-day responsibilities of the safe management of the building may be subcontracted to an agent but that dutyholder is ultimately responsible and could end up in jail if it all goes wrong.
Andrew foresees what he politely describes as ? lively? residents? meetings as the directors try to decide between them who is prepared to take on that responsibility, or when the developer tries to hand over the completed site to the residents.
Yesterday, I wrote about Lord Best?s working group, which the IRPM sits on. The organisation has highlighted this ?dutyholder? conundrum and the leasehold reform team at the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government is trying to find a way forward. Any overhaul of a longstanding system is complex and ?carries significant risk of unintended consequences,? says Andrew. He doesn?t envy the MHCLG in their task ? and nor do I.
I have returned regularly to leasehold reform in this blog. Today?s post illustrates yet again why that reform is so badly needed and why the debate over it could go on for some time.
Author : Mary-Anne Bowring
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