New clause 21 - Requirement for completion certificate before occupation

Building Safety Bill – in a Public Bill Committee on 26th October 2021.

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“(1) This section applies if any of the following works are carried out—

(a) the construction of a higher-risk building;

(b) the creation of additional residential units in such a building;

(c) works to a building that cause it to become a higher-risk building.

(2) If a relevant residential unit is occupied before a completion certificate relating to a relevant part of the building is issued, the relevant accountable person commits an offence.

(3) It is a defence for a person charged with an offence under this section to prove that the person had a reasonable excuse for the residential unit being occupied before such a completion certificate was issued.

(4) A person guilty of an offence under this section is liable—

(a) on summary conviction, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding the statutory maximum for either-way offences or a fine (or both);

(b) on conviction on indictment, to imprisonment for a term not exceeding two years or a fine (or both).

(5) In this section—

‘completion certificate’ means a certificate of a prescribed description that is issued under regulations made under section 1(1) of the Building Act 1984 (building regulations);

‘occupied’: a residential unit is occupied if there is a resident of it;

‘relevant accountable person’, in relation to a residential unit, means the accountable person who is responsible for a relevant part of the building;

‘relevant part’ of a building, in relation to a residential unit, means a part of the building containing the residential unit;

‘relevant residential unit’ means—

(a) in the case of works within subsection (1)(a), any residential unit in the building;

(b) in the case of works within subsection (1)(b), any additional residential unit;

(c) in the case of works within subsection (1)(c), any residential unit in the building except one that existed before the works began.

This new clause creates an offence where a new residential unit in a higher-risk building is occupied without a completion certificate having been issued in relation to it.

Brought up, and read the First time.

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities) 9:25 am, 26th October 2021

I beg to move, That the clause be read a Second time.

The new clause is technical and ensures that the hard stop to occupation intended at gateway 3 will apply when high-rise residential buildings that are 18 metres or more in height, or at least seven storeys, are occupied in phases. These are defined in part 4 of the Bill as higher-risk buildings. Dame Judith Hackitt’s recommendation was that duty holders meet applicable building regulation requirements before starting work and before occupation begins. Gateway 2 will take place at the current deposit of plans stage, before building work starts. Gateway 3 will take place at the current completion certificate stage when building work is complete. At gateway 3 the duty-holder will make a completion certificate application, reflecting the “as built” building. The Building Safety Regulator will assess the application, carry out a final inspection of the building work and, if satisfied, issue a completion certificate as evidence that the building work complies with all applicable building regulation requirements. Once a completion certificate has been issued, the principal accountable person will be able to register the building and legally commence occupation. The Bill therefore creates a hard stop, via clause 73, which makes it an offence to occupy two or more units of a higher-risk building before registration.

The registration of higher-risk buildings will be a one-off. As buildings are often occupied in stages, that means that there would not be a hard stop for subsequent phases of occupation. That does not meet the policy intent of ensuring that building work is signed off as compliant with building regulation requirements before the building, or parts of it, is occupied. The new clause would therefore make it an offence for an accountable person to allow occupation of a single residential unit, or more, in part of a higher-risk building unless a completion certificate has been issued for the relevant building work. That will apply to new builds and extensions to higher-risk buildings, or to works that create a higher-risk building. The prohibition would apply to any new residential units created. Additionally, we wish to make an accountable person liable if they permit occupation of the building, or parts of it, without a completion certificate, with the principal accountable person’s knowledge.

Photo of Peter Dowd Peter Dowd Labour, Bootle

Just for my pedanticness, may I say that Members may take their jackets off if they so wish?

Photo of Mike Amesbury Mike Amesbury Shadow Minister (Housing, Communities and Local Government)

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship once again, Mr Dowd. The new clause is technical and the Opposition do not wish to oppose it.

Photo of Ian Byrne Ian Byrne Labour, Liverpool, West Derby

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Dowd. May I ask the Minister, where would the completed certificate be displayed within the building so that residents might see it?

Photo of Eddie Hughes Eddie Hughes Parliamentary Under Secretary of State (Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities)

In line with other elements of the Bill, the certificate would be displayed in a prominent location.

Question put and agreed to.

New clause 21 accordingly read a Second time, and added to the Bill.