Grenfell - Four Years On
Four years ago, the UK experienced the worst residential fire since the Second World War. In the early hours of 14th June 2017, a fire broke out on the fourth floor of the 24-storey Grenfell Tower in North Kensington, London. Over 250 firefighters battled to put out the blaze, but it would claim 72 lives.
The tragedy sparked a national building safety crisis which has since left thousands of leaseholders facing crippling bills to put right buildings defects that were not their fault. Over the years, ARMA and the IRPM have worked continuously to lobby government to protect leaseholders from these costs.
To understand the building safety crisis today, along with ARMA and IRPM’s involvement in campaigning for increased government funding, further information can be obtained here: https://arma.org.uk/leaseholders/leaseholders-advice/building-safety-information-for-leaseholders
Information regarding Building & Fire Safety
The Building Safety Programme – established by the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy – has reassessed the approach to fire safety for high rise buildings.
On 20 January 2020, MHCLG released ‘Advice for Building Owners of Multi-storey, Multi-occupied Residential Buildings’ which consolidated all of the Government’s previous advice notes on fire safety and broadened the scope of obligations to include buildings of any height, not just those over 18m.
In brief, the key requirement is for building owners (such as your landlord) to assess and manage the risk of fire spread from unsafe external wall systems. Formal regulatory change will follow in the shape of the widely publicised Fire Safety Bill but, in the meantime, the advice makes very clear that building owners must take immediate action.
Against this background, we have put in place a process of investigating and reviewing your building’s external wall system to assess whether it has been designed and constructed in a safe manner.
If you have a comment that is not addressed by this web page, please email EWS@mainstaygroup.co.uk
Building Safety Fund deadline extensions
The Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government opened on 31 July 2020 the Building Safety Fund for non-ACM Buildings.
The deadline for completion of the full application (all three phases) was 31 December 2020. The deadline date was subsequently extended by MHCLG to 30 June 2021.
On 26 May 2021, in recognition that many buildings remain to complete the BSF process, MHCLG released revised guidance stating that more time may be permitted on a case by case basis.
The BSF process comprises a preliminary ‘technical eligibility’ phase followed by the formal application phase that involves a ‘legal eligibility stage’ before a ‘full costs and works’ stage:
A. Technical Eligibility Phase
This involves the Ministry of Housing Communities & Local Government (MHCLG) checking the building against its technical eligibility requirements (e.g. that the building’s height and the materials in the external wall system are within scope).
Once MHCLG has checked a building meets the technical eligibility requirements it provides access to an online portal to progress the formal application phases.
B. Legal Eligibility Stage
This stage involves MHCLG carrying out basic legal due diligence steps to get a better understanding of the building and your landlord by checking certain legal details.
C. Full Costs and Works Stage
This stage involves submitting design and cost information and the agreed form of the building contract for the works.
Application for an extension of time has been made for buildings and advised to relevant Leaseholders in July 2021 along with confirmation of the phase that their building is at with regards to the BSF Funding application.
We appreciate that this slow progress through the BSF stages and may come as a frustration to residents, however this is something that is outside of your landlord’s control.
£30m Waking Watch Relief Fund
The Government has now published information relating to the Waking Watch Relief Fund. Funding is targeted at cities with the most high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding.
Buildings over 18m with unsafe cladding systems and where Waking Watch costs have been passed on to leaseholders will be eligible.
The £30 million fund is targeted to buildings that are continually patrolled (aka Waking Watches) by providing financial support for the installation of fire alarms.
The criteria for the fund have been published, setting out which buildings are eligible for funding, the evidence needed to apply and how applications will be assessed, as well as the way the funding is provided.
The Government have documented the average cost of waking watch per building is available here.
Where developments are eligible, Mainstay Residential Limited is working with its client and fellow managing agents to review the evidence available and initiate applications where the criteria is met.
Read more by clicking here.
Government to bring an end to unsafe cladding with multi-billion pound intervention
The MHCLG Housing Secretary unveiled a 5-point plan which will provide reassurance to homeowners and confidence to the housing market, and outlined:
- The government will pay for the removal of unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in high-rise buildings, providing reassurance and protecting them from costs;
- New levy and tax on developers to ensure industry contributes;
- Measures will boost the housing market and free up homeowners to once again buy and sell their properties;
Detailed up to date information can be found here on the UK Government’s website explaining further the government’s announcements.
Frequently Asked Questions
Why does my building need to be surveyed?
This is in response to the Advice for Building Owners of Multi-storey, Multi-occupied Residential Buildings (also referred to as the Consolidated Advice Note’), published on 20 January 2020, and the subsequent Government Update on Building Safety issued on 2 April 2020. The requirements are for:
• Buildings 18 metres or above, or more than six storeys high (whichever is lowest), to only use materials of limited combustibility (or that have passed certain safety tests) in their external wall construction.
• And external wall and balcony construction materials buildings 18 metres and above or more than six storeys high (whichever is lowest), to have been installed and maintained correctly.
What investigations are being carried out?
Investigations follow a two-stage approach:
• Stage One: involves a review of all available construction documents to understand what has been installed on the building, to form a holistic view of the building’s make-up and apparent risks and establish parameters for the stage two investigations; and
• Stage Two: involves carrying out intrusive surveys of the external wall system (i.e. opening up the building in several places, from the outer surface through to the insulation) to verify the construction anticipated by the review and confirm the position on key fire safety installations (e.g. cavity barriers and firestopping between compartments) which cannot be established from a desktop review alone.
Once investigations are complete, the Fire/Cladding Engineer will produce a report covering the construction of the external wall system and whether it complies with MHCLG guidance. If issues are revealed, the report will identify the necessary remedial works and advise on any interim safety measures, such as a waking watch, which should be put in place to ensure the building is safe to occupy pending completion of those works.
What is an intrusive survey and why is it necessary?
An intrusive survey will provide information about a building’s external wall system and identify whether, in the opinion of the Fire Engineer, any remediation is required. The survey will typically involve removing sections of the external wall system to determine the materials and composition of the wall beneath. Samples of this material may be sent off for external testing. The survey will take place across several locations of the building to identify each material present so that a better understanding of the construction of the building can be achieved.
Will I need to move out while an intrusive survey is undertaken?
In the vast majority of cases the survey work will take place on the outside of the building and there is no need for residents to move out while it takes place. In some cases, access may be required to individual properties so that we can examine parts of the building structure. If access is required, you will be notified in advance by your managing agent.
When will the intrusive survey take place?
Most of the surveys have already taken place or are scheduled to begin in December 2020.
The time to secure the survey is determined by a number of factors. Only a limited number of specialists can undertake these assessments, which are currently in high demand nationally.
The commissioning of intrusive surveys sometimes also relies on responses from other parties, such as the local authority if road closures are needed to access the building structure.
We will keep you updated about the progress and timeline for the intrusive survey for your building.
What happens next?
We will share the headline findings of the Fire/Cladding Engineer with you as soon as possible, with a more detailed update to follow thereafter. However, capacity in the sector is extremely stretched at present so some reports are taking longer to be returned following conclusion of surveys. Where this is the case your managing agent will keep you informed of revised timings.
What happens if no remedial work is required?
If the Fire/Cladding Engineer advises that no work is required, an up to date EWS1 form will be obtained and issued to all leaseholders.
What happens if remedial work is required?
If safety issues are identified that pose a risk to resident’s safety, we will work with a team of professionals and the local fire service to immediately identify and implement interim measures (unless already in place) pending completion of remedial works. This may include the installation of new fire alarm systems or the instruction of a Waking Watch.
The professional team will include:
• Employer’s Agent/Quantity & Measured Surveyor/Principal Designer
• Fire/Cladding Engineer
• Planning Consultant
• Building Control/Approved Inspector
• Remediation Contractor
Details of those appointed for your development have been provided to leaseholders by letter.
If remedial works are required, the Fire/Cladding Engineer’s report will be circulated to the professional team to scope, design and provide costs for the works (working to a deadline of 31 December 2020). We will target for the contractor to commence works on site by 30th September 2021. This is due to the requirements imposed by the Building Safety Fund.
What is a Waking Watch?
A Waking Watch is a system whereby suitably trained persons continually patrol all floors and the exterior perimeter of the building. The aim of a waking watch is to ensure there is sufficient warning in the event of fire to support the evacuation strategy.
What is an EWS1 form and why is it needed?
Many mortgage lenders now request information about the external wall system before agreeing to lend against a residential flat. This information is usually requested as an EWS1 form which is a standardised process developed by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to address the issue. The term ‘certificate of compliance’ is also often used.
This EWS1 form needs to be signed by an independent qualified professional advisor. It cannot be provided by either the building owner or the property manager, meaning that the capacity of suitably qualified fire engineers nationally is limited.
For further information, please refer to the RICS website.
What is the process and timeline to get an EWS1 form?
The timeline to get an EWS1 form will vary because this depends on the result of the intrusive survey and whether remediation work is required. The image below maps out the different routes to obtaining an EWS1 form for your building.
Please click here to view the paths to obtaining an EWS1 form.
Will coronavirus cause any delays to any of this work?
We are working hard to make sure that Coronavirus does not unduly impact the progress of our investigations and will ensure that all investigations and works are carried out in line with the latest Government guidance for the protection of everyone.
Who will be funding the work?
Your landlord is committed to identifying possible alternative options for funding any required remedial works so as to minimise the costs to leaseholders. Such options include:
• Government funding – the Government has set aside a Building Safety Fund (BSF) of £1bn to support the remediation of non-ACM cladding systems on residential buildings over 18m. Your building has been registered for this fund, but eligibility will not be confirmed until after the BSF has reviewed the Fire/Cladding Engineer’s report. The deadline for a full application to be submitted is currently 30/06/2021.
• Claims against the developer – your landlord’s solicitors are looking at potential claims against the developer and others, pending the outcome of the intrusive investigations. To the extent that time limits for claims against such parties may arise in the near future, steps will be taken to preserve the right to claim.
• New home building warranties (e.g. NHBC policies) - the beneficiaries of these policies will be the leaseholders and any claim(s) will have to be made by them. We will continue to work with the managing agent to enable them to liaise with you about the possibility of such claims.
If the investigations find that no remedial works are required, the above funding options will fall away and the investigations and provision of an EWS1 form (which represent ‘services’ under your lease) will be charged to leaseholders as service charge items. The level of charges and proposed timing of payment will be notified as soon as possible following notification of the outcome of investigations.
We are aware that not all leaseholders require an EWS1 form at present. However, it has been decided that the cost should be a service charge item and shared equally given the form is valid for 5 years and represents a small proportion of the overall cost of the investigations
What is the Government’s Building Safety Fund?
In March 2020, the Government announced a new £1bn Building Safety Fund which is open for buildings over 18 metres high where works are needed to upgrade or replace complex external wall systems.
The fund is specifically targeted at buildings with non-ACM (aluminium composite material) cladding. It builds on funding already available for the removal of ACM cladding which was announced soon after this material was found to have contributed to the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower.
Building safety issues, and the costs which they incur, continue to have a serious impact on residents up and down the country. We are now working through the next stage of the application, which sees us submitting development-specific information to allow Government to assess whether a development qualifies for financial support through the fund.
Please click here to view the Building Safety Fund process graphic.
If you would like to find out more information visit any of the below websites: