The Building Safety Act 2022, known as the Building Safety Bill, introduced some new legal duties related to high-rise buildings and residents’ safety.
But it’s not enough for residents just to be safe. They should feel safe too. And this means they need to feel well informed and listened to.
As a result, it’s now a legal duty for building owners to engage with residents and consider their views when making building safety decisions.
But what is resident engagement in the Building Safety Bill?
Since this is s new responsibility for building owners, we’ve put together a guide to walk you through what resident engagement is in practice and what you need to do to fulfil your legal and moral duties.
What Are the Aims of Resident Engagement?
New legislation introduced by the Building Safety Act (BSA) aims to make buildings safer.
To achieve this, lawmakers have put residents at the heart of building safety to change the industry culture.
Previously, many building owners might have only worried if their safety measures pleased regulators. Now, residents’ opinions, input and concerns around building safety must be properly considered. It’s also essential for building owners to keep residents informed and establish accessible, clear complaint procedures.
After all, the residents’ lives are at stake should something go wrong.
Increased resident engagement around building safety should achieve two aims:
- Building owners consider residents when making safety decisions
- Residents feel their concerns are being addressed
This should result in residents being safer and feeling safer in their homes.
What Are My Legal Duties?
The BSA created a new duty holder role for high-rise buildings (HRBs), the Accountable Person.
The Accountable Person (AP) is the individual responsible for building safety. The AP isn’t always the building owner; for some residential buildings, there might be more than one AP. Where multiple APs exist, one must be designated the Principal Accountable Person (PAP).
The AP (or PAP) has a number of legal duties under the Building Safety Act.
These duties include:
- Registering the high-rise building they’re responsible for with the Building Safety Regulator
- Preparing and submitting a Safety Case Report
- Meeting mandatory reporting obligations
They must also promote resident engagement by:
- Preparing a Residents’ Engagement Strategy and related complaints procedure
- Reviewing and revising the Residents’ Engagement Strategy
What is a Resident Engagement Strategy?
Your Residents’ Engagement Strategy (RES) is your plan for encouraging relevant persons to participate in decisions regarding building safety.
Relevant persons generally refer to residents but also include people who might own a flat in a high-rise building but don’t live there.
Your RES needs to set out your plan for engaging with residents and consulting them on your building’s safety and related decisions.
You must take every reasonable step to share the strategy with all residents/flat owners over 16.
What Should I Include in a Resident Engagement Strategy?
Every RES will be different depending on the building but there are four key areas to consider.
1 – Sharing Information
You need to share any information relating to building management and safety decisions.
- Contact information for all APs and a short description of their role
- An explanation of residents’ rights
- A summary of the existing safety measures in place
- How residents can support the current safety measures
Residents also now have the right to request further information. This includes the details and schedules of planned maintenance or the results of any building safety checks.
2 – Legal Duties
You need to inform residents of both your and their building safety obligations.
Residents must understand what you do to keep the property safe and what’s legally required of them. For example, residents must cooperate with you (as the AP). They must avoid actions that could pose risks to building safety.
And this must be communicated as clearly and accessibly as possible.
3 – Gathering Views
This is essential to the strategy.
You must plan how to collect, consider and put residents’ views at the heart of your decision making.
You also need to take appropriate steps to promote resident engagement. This might include working with community leaders or establishing dedicated teams to handle residents’ queries.
The BSR is realistic about engagement levels, however. They don’t expect 100% of residents to actively participate in building safety. Still, you will need to show that many of them are. If not, you’ll have to revise your strategy (more on this later).
4 – Complaints Procedures
All occupied HRBs will need robust complaints procedures set up as soon as reasonably possible.
And complaints can now be made by anyone as long as they relate to either building safety or the performance of the AP. For example, contractors can complain if they notice an issue with building safety.
As part of your RES, you’ll have to plan a clear and transparent complaints process that communicates the following:
- What counts as a relevant complaint?
- How people can make complaints
- How long it will take complaints to be dealt with
- What the potential outcomes are
Complainants will also have the right to escalate issues to the BSR if they feel their complaint has not been appropriately handled.
You might already have an effective complaints procedure in place. Any existing processes can be kept up, provided they meet the minimum requirements outlined by the BSA.
What Makes a Good Resident Engagement Strategy?
An effective RES should cover the four key areas already explored.
But what really makes a good RES is accessibility.
Every resident should be able to understand the RES and what it means for them so it should be clear and avoid jargon.
You may even find it beneficial to produce two versions of your RES. There could be a more in-depth version for you and your organisation and a condensed, informal version to be shared with the building’s residents.
Because the more resident-friendly your strategy is, the more likely it is to promote engagement.
You should also consider the proper channels and forums for your residents and consider their diverse needs.
And you will need to regularly review and revise your strategy to ensure it’s working.
Review and Revise
The Building Safety Act states that engagement strategies must be reviewed at least every two years but you might be required to do this more often.
Any review should prove that residents feel well-informed and safe. You will need to decide how you can measure this. For example, you could survey residents’ overall satisfaction or monitor the number of residents actively responding to your communications.
You must revise your approach if your RES is not achieving its objectives.
Where Can I Learn More About the Building Safety Bill?
To learn more about the Building Safety Bill and its implications for duty holders, read our blog here.
Or contact Human Focus today to learn how our training courses can help you comply with the Building Safety Bill and keep your property safe.