Duties of the accountable person (Part 4)

Whether during the construction or occupation phase of a building, the detail and breadth of new building safety legislation undoubtedly makes it one of the more significant legal developments I have encountered in my career to date. This is reflected in the previous blogs from my colleagues, as well as commentary from many others.

One thing that has struck me as I read the legislation, particularly the detail of the secondary legislation, is that the whole edifice of making the new regulations actually work in practice is built on cooperation, coordination and the sharing of information.

Looking at the duties of an accountable person specifically, they must cooperate and coordinate with each other (where there is more than one accountable person) and with a similarly-named “responsible person”, if there is one. The responsible person is the broad equivalent of the accountable person, but under the fire safety order that governs fire safety in non-residential buildings.

As the regime beds in and duty holders find their feet, over-sharing and over-cooperation may take place (after all, who would want to risk prosecution for not co-operating), but there is also a risk that if you are an accountable person, simply sending everything by email to someone else to get it “off your desk” is not the kind of cooperation that is actually required.

As well as the risk of prosecution, failing to co-operate at all or adopting a “send and forget” way of working could mean you are the test case of the special measures regime. While there’s a lot of detail in that regime (and too much for this blog), a “serious failure” to comply with the accountable person’s duties could allow the First Tier Tribunal to notify everyone in the building (along with regulators and the local housing authority) of its intention to appoint a special measures manager in your place…

It must be better to engage in meaningful cooperative dialogue and information exchange with those who share a legal and practical accountability for the structural and fire safety of an affected building. After all, they too will be working out both how to manage the new legislation and keep people safe in their homes.

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