Residential building safety - frequently asked questions (FAQs)

The below is a list of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) developed in relation to Residential Building Safety. These will be updated accordingly as the work progresses.

Residential Building Safety team

The Department for Communities established a Residential Building Safety Team to implement the recommendations of the, ‘Improving Safety in High Rise Residential Buildings in Northern Ireland’. expert panel report. As the report primarily addressed the issue of fire safety in high- rise residential buildings, this will be the initial focus of the Team. It is anticipated however, that further aspects of residential building safety will come under its remit in due course.  

Further information about residential building safety is available on the DfC website.

Role of the DfC Residential Building Safety Team

What will the team deliver and what is the timeframe for delivery?

The new business area will develop, implement and maintain a system based on sound policy and legislation that manages the whole life of residential buildings and promotes a culture of safety. We envisage having the business area fully functional from September 2025

Which government department is responsible for residential building safety? 

The Department for Communities is responsible for residential building safety under its remit for housing.

What has happened with high-rise building safety in Northern Ireland since Grenfell in 2017?

Following the Grenfell tragedy and Hackitt Review, the Department of Finance for Northern Ireland commissioned an Expert Panel to review the local situation and make recommendations to improve the building safety in Northern Ireland. The Expert Panel's report,  was published in December 2023.  It identifies issues with the current system and makes recommendations many of which are consistent with the Hackitt Review.

Why is the focus on residential buildings? 

The Department for Communities has responsibility for the ninth Outcome in the Draft Programme for Government Outcomes Framework "People want to live, work and visit here".  It is the Department's responsibility for housing that focuses the work on residential buildings rather than commercial or specific building types. 

Is the rest of the UK or Ireland ahead in implementing changes to ensure building safety?

It has been over 6 years since the tragedy at Grenfell and some other areas of the UK, and Ireland are ahead of the progress here.  NI now has an opportunity to catch up and lead on this critically important issue. 

High-rise building safety

For the purposes of the Residential Building Safety Team’s current work, what is a high-rise residential building?

In general terms, the high-rise residential buildings that will be included in our initial work will normally have 5 or more floors and be over 11 metres high.

More specifically, our initial work will include the following residential property types:

  • Residential buildings with 5 or more floors and over 11 metres high to the uppermost floor* (measured from the lowest floor, which can be underground).
  • Buildings which are not fully residential but contain 2 or more residential units and have 5 or more floors and are over 11 metres high to the uppermost floor* (measured from the lowest floor, which can be underground).

*Uppermost floors consisting of plant only, i.e. mechanical and electrical equipment, are not included in the height measurement.

Note that care homes, hotels and hospitals are not included in the Team’s scope at this time

Is my high-rise building safe?

If you are concerned about the safety of your building, we would encourage you to contact the building owner, their agent, or the management company who can inform you of the safety measures in place. 

I cannot sell my apartment, because it is assumed it has dangerous cladding on it. Who can I ask for more information?

If you are concerned about the safety of your building, or have problems selling your apartment, we would encourage you to contact the building's owner, their agent, or the management company, who may be able to help you.

I am buying an apartment. How can I make sure it is safe?

Buying a home is one of the biggest investments you will make. A buyer should carry out appropriate due diligence.  There are many sources available to support buyers including material from the RICS, Lenders and Insurers. 

Non-aluminium composite material cladding

I am the owner of an apartment building with potentially unsafe cladding. How can I apply to the government for help?

Guidance on making an application to the Cladding Safety Scheme is available online.

Legislation and regulation

Will Fire Safety legislation be updated in NI to match that in England and other jurisdictions of the UK?

Fire Safety legislation in NI is currently a matter for the Department of Health, as is any decision to amend it. Scoping exercises, research and stakeholder engagement will be carried out by the DfC Residential Building Safety team, which will include evaluating current and proposed policy and legislation across jurisdictions. This will help inform the best possible solution for NI.

Will a Building Safety Act, similar to the Building Safety Act 2022 be developed for NI?

Scoping exercises, research and stakeholder engagement will be carried out by the DfC Residential Building Safety team, which will include evaluating current and proposed policy and legislation across jurisdictions. This will help inform the best possible solution for NI. Work on formulating policy to support new legislation and changes to existing legislation can then get underway.  Whilst it is not yet certain, it is anticipated a new Building Safety Act is likely to be required for Northern Ireland.

Will new residential building safety legislation apply to commercial or other specific building types? 

The legislation will apply to residential only, with particular focus on higher-risk and high-rise buildings. 

Is a competency framework, similar to that in other jurisdictions, likely to be introduced in Northern Ireland? 

DfC's Residential Building Safety team will carry out work to determine if competency frameworks or specific mandatory requirements are needed in NI. As work progresses, the team will engage with relevant stakeholders to inform the right solution for NI.

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