The government has issued more guidance regarding Accountable Persons and the Principal Accountable Person under the Building Safety Act 2022 (BSA).
These persons are key to the building safety regime, with responsibility for assessing and managing structural and fire risks in occupied higher-risk buildings (HRBs) – and subject to criminal sanctions for non-compliance.
Principal or Accountable – what’s the difference?
An Accountable Person simply means an individual or organisation with a legal obligation to repair any common parts of an HRB. These are buildings with seven or more storeys or that are 18m or higher, and contain at least two residential units.
There could therefore be several Accountable Persons in respect of one HRB, perhaps including the freeholder, a management company or even a residents’ Right to Manage company. Each person can also be accountable for more than one building.
For each HRB, one of the Accountable Persons will be the Principal Accountable Person, or PAP. If there is only one Accountable Person for the building, it follows that they are automatically the PAP.
If there are multiple Accountable Persons, they do not choose or elect a PAP – instead, this responsibility will automatically fall to the individual or organisation that owns or has a legal obligation to repair the structure and exterior of the HRB.
Accountability and liability therefore remain connected to the legal obligation and ability to actually carry out any building safety works required.
What is the role of an Accountable Person?
Accountable Persons are each responsible for assessing and managing the risks posed to people in and about the HRB from structural failure or the spread of fire, in the parts of the building they are responsible for.
This responsibility may therefore not only cover the common parts, but could also include balconies, residential units, in some circumstances, and any other part of the building not covered by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
What is the role of the Principal Accountable Person?
As set out previously, in addition to their role as an Accountable Person, the PAP has additional responsibilities for registering the HRB. This requires them to provide some basic information to enable the Regulator to identify the building and the persons responsible for its safety.
The PAP must also provide further key building information within 28 days of submitting an application for registration and must also notify the Regulator of any changes to registration information, including copies of any updated certificates, within 14 days of becoming aware of the change.
S.77 of the BSA is yet to be brought into force. This will fix an official end date for registrations to be submitted. However, the Gov.uk website states that applications should be completed before 30 September 2023, in line with the government guidance so far.
As well as the duty to initially register the HRB, the PAP also has ongoing overarching responsibility for managing the HRB’s safety over a building’s lifetime. This includes preparing a safety case report, operating reporting systems for building safety issues and complaints, engaging with residents and keeping the Regulator updated about any changes.
What about a Responsible Person?
Another key, but separate part of the building safety jigsaw is the Responsible Person. This is a separate role created by the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005, and is usually the owner or someone with control over the building.
A Responsible Person might therefore also be an Accountable Person, or even the PAP.
The roles of the Responsible Person relate to keeping persons on the premises safe, rather than keeping the building itself safe, but there is an obvious overlap. Building safety information must be shared across the roles - keeping in mind data protection requirements.
The Health and Safety Executive has released guidance on the framework and enforcement approach. The Regulator will be entitled to take action, such as issuing compliance notices and, in some cases, prosecution or taking over building safety duties from the accountable persons.
In the meantime, PAPs should begin the process of registering existing HRBs. Registration is now open and applications can be submitted via the Gov.uk website.