Grenfell - Five Years On

Five 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

Building Funding Update

BUILDING SAFETY FUND LEASEHOLDER & RESIDENT SERVICE

This is a service that has been set up to give leaseholders and residents access to online information on their building’s status in the BSF application process.

More information can be found on GOV.UK and the following hyperlinks:

The Service delivered by the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) is designed to  support leaseholders and residents and it will provide individuals the opportunity to track the progress of their building’s BSF application regarding the removal and replacement of dangerous.

Information will be updated by the BSF on the third week of every month.

To access the new service, leaseholders and residents must use a code, unique to their building. This code is available from their managing agent who is managing their development.

BUILDINGS BETWEEN 11 – 18M IN HEIGHT

On 10 January 2022 the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) announced the next stage in the Government’s plan to remove dangerous cladding from high rise buildings, this time concentrating on those buildings between 11-18m in height.

As the press release [link] explains, DLUHC is seeking commitments from the developer industry to:

  • make financial contributions to a dedicated fund to cover the full outstanding cost to remediate unsafe cladding on buildings between 11-18 metres and with a current estimate of £4 billion;
  • fund and undertake all necessary remediation of buildings over 11 metres (this covers buildings both up 18 metres and over 18 metres) that they have played a role in developing;
  • provide comprehensive information on all buildings over 11 metres which have historic fire-safety defects and which they have played a part in constructing in the last 30 years

The letter gives the developer industry until early March 2022 to commit to this framework and have a

clear, fully funded plan that can be available to the public and to affected leaseholders.

Additionally, the Secretary of State has confirmed the withdrawal of the Government’s January 2020 Advice for Building Owners of Multi-storey, Multi-occupied Residential Buildings (on which remediation plans have been based) to be replaced by new proportionate guidance to be released this week (commencing 10 January 2022).

We will review the new proportionate guidance once available to understand how this will affect the buildings owned by the Fund and the ongoing fire safety work and will monitor DLUHC’s progress on its framework with the developer industry.

Please note that the below FAQs will be reviewed and do not yet reflect the above developments ( Please keep this in mind if reading them and check back for updated statement as and when further information becomes available).

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.

February 2021

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.

The Building Safety Act 2022

  1. The Building Safety Act 2022

The Building Safety Act became law on 28th April 2022 for England, but how it comes into force will be staggered as the Government defines how they it work out in practice. This means we must now wait for further detail from the Government before we can progress further.

  1. What is happening in Wales and Scotland?

Building regulation is a devolved matter, so while the Building Safety Act applies to England, this is not the case in Wales or Scotland.

The Welsh Government is working closely with the UK Government to apply aspects of the Building Safety Act to Wales, and has called for the developer pledge and Building Safety Levy to be extended to Wales as well as England. The Welsh government is meeting with developers to call on them to match the pledges they have made in England.

In Scotland, the devolved government has also called on developers to play their part where buildings are found to be unsafe. A number of legislative changes have been introduced following the Grenfell Tower fire, and a Single Building Assessment programme is identifying high-risk buildings in Scotland.

  1. What are the new protection provisions for leaseholders in England?

In a letter to building owners and managing agents advising that the leaseholder protection provisions set out in the Bill would come into effect from 28th June, protecting qualifying leaseholders from any financial costs associated with life-critical building-safety defects, the previous Secretary of State also issued guidance for leaseholders on the implications of the Act.

The guidelines can be found here.

The guidance states that any leaseholder should not pay any outstanding or current invoice relating to historical cladding costs that were caused during the construction or refurbishment of the building.

The Act currently states that for non-cladding costs such as compartmentation, leaseholders may be required to contribute, but these leaseholder costs will be capped at £15,000 for Central London and £10,000 for the rest of England and Wales.

The Government’s protection of leaseholders is something which we have advocated since the start of the Government announcements requiring remediation.

However, for us and leaseholders, there are many unanswered questions which require further clarification. We hope that Government will provide this clarification at the earliest opportunity.

  1. What does this mean now?

In accordance with the Building Safety Act, qualifying leaseholders do not have to pay for the remediation of life-critical building-safety costs.

You are a qualifying leaseholder if your property is in a building above 11m (or 5 storeys) and on 14 February 2022:

 

  • Your property was your main home, or
  • You owned no more than 3 UK residential properties in total
  • If you purchased your property after 14 February 2022 and one of the above two points was true, you are also a qualifying leaseholder.

If you are a non-qualifying leaseholder and one of the following apply, you will also be protected from paying for life-critical building-safety costs.

  • The building owner is the original developer, or a company linked to the original developer, or
  • The developer has signed the Building Safety Pledge

More information on the Leaseholder Protections and cost caps under the Building Safety Bill can be found in the Government Factsheet here ; you may also find the Government’s FAQ’s useful to help with any other queries you have: here .

  1. I still have further questions – what does this mean for me?

At this stage there are a number of questions that remain unclear or unanswered. We are seeking more clarity on these points from both the government and developers:

What exactly is defined as a cost caused as a result of life-critical building-safety defects?

What is defined as a ‘non-cladding defect’ or an ‘interim fire safety measure’?

What exactly is covered under the formal Building Safety Pledge agreement?

How should costs for non-qualifying leaseholders be dealt with?

What does the affordability test look like for Freeholders and when will this become live?

When will the Building Safety Fund and the specific fund for buildings over 11m go live? And what are the terms of the new Fund?

What happens to buildings incurring ongoing costs now (such as Waking Watch) where affordability tests have not taken place?

How will the value of properties that define leaseholder cap levels be calculated?

What happens if a building owner cannot afford the costs over and above any leaseholder cap?

What happens to costs already paid that are over and above the leaseholder cap?

Who funds the upfront costs of remediation where leaseholders are required to pay a capped cost with payments spread over ten years?

How will overseas building owners be held to account?

What happens to leaseholders in unsafe buildings that are under 11m?

What happens to those buildings without a developer who has signed the pledge that have been remediated at leaseholder cost – will there be a retrospective right to reclaim costs from government funds?

  1. Will leaseholders receive a refund?

This is dependent on a number of factors, many of which remain unanswered by the Government’s announcement and will also be specific to each building. However, it is clear the direction of travel the Government is taking and we remain hopeful, but not yet certain, that there will be clear mechanisms by which leaseholders will be reimbursed for costs incurred where they are a qualifying leaseholder.

  1. What does this mean if I am trying to sell my property?

The Building Safety Act has brought in a new, more holistic, measure of building safety. This is applicable to all buildings, but those above 11m tall, where risk is deemed higher, are most affected.

The Building Safety Fund had a very narrow scope. Height (above 18m) was one of the primary definitions of risk. The Building Safety Act and subsequent provisions mean that a new risk-based test, the PAS-9980, will define the risk level of a building.

For leaseholders trying to sell or remortgage their property, the EWS1 form has been the standard form of risk assessment for the past several years. Lenders have been unwilling to lend, or in some cases even give a value to, a property without a certain EWS1 grading.

It is important to remind leaseholders that the EWS1 was brought in by lenders and RICS as a way to manage their own financial risk – it was not developed as part of a building safety regime.

The new PAS-based building safety regime should phase out the EWS1 form so that an assessment of a property’s value will be based on the actual safety risk to residents, and whether or not defects are going to be put right by a developer.

This is, however, dependent on the individual lender. With so many questions unanswered, and legislation not yet fully fleshed out, some lenders may still stick to the EWS1 as a way of measuring property risk, and consequently value.

  1. What will Mainstay do for me in this situation?

As your asset manager, Mainstay is dedicated to keeping your building safe. We are working to bring together developers and freeholders to make sure that any buildings that are unsafe are put right as soon as possible.

For some buildings in the Building Safety Fund, we will continue along that route. For others, we are engaging with building owners and developers to make sure that any defects in the build are put right.

While we cannot promise that leaseholders will face no costs, we are making sure that we understand new Government directives seeking to protect qualifying leaseholders from the full costs of putting buildings right.

We are working hard to make sure that building safety costs, where they are not chargeable to leaseholders, are not passed on in statements of account.

Although things now appear complex as we await further detail, we remain committed to providing the best service to leaseholders and to ensuring that buildings we are manage are safe.

There are two key factors which still impact on our ability to find a clear route to funding of fire safety remediation on your behalf:

  1. The Developer Pledge

As of July 2022, 48 developers have signed up to the pledge, indicating their intention to cover the cost of life critical fire safety remediation. However, the pledge is simply a commitment to sign the detailed agreement. The detailed form of agreement has not yet been issued by Government and it is therefore not possible for us to know precisely what costs will be covered. In this way, we do not yet know, for example, whether historic waking watch costs will be covered under the terms of the Developer agreement.  More information can be obtained here.

  1. Freeholder (Building Owner) contributions and the Wealth Test

The Government is yet to publish details of the affordability calculation for freeholders or to define what is meant by ‘net wealth’. It is therefore not possible for us to tell what costs should be covered by the freeholder, and what remaining costs should be borne by leaseholders.

As listed above, there are a number of other points which remain unclear. Once we have better clarity, we will be able to advise leaseholders more fully as to what the specific implications are for them.

  1. What charges will leaseholders still have to pay?

Leaseholders will still be responsible for the maintenance of existing life-safety equipment and other routine maintenance for their buildings.

The Property Institute (TPI) (incorporating ARMA & IRPM) offers this advice:

“the Building Safety Act does not prevent freeholders, RMCs, RTM companies or managing agents from issuing any invoices whatsoever for building safety measures. Some charges can still be recovered from 28 June 2022 following the coming into force of the Act (as ever, only where permitted by the terms of the lease); the provisions are complex and detailed. However, the focus of this letter leans towards the costs of fixing bad buildings and other related costs where buildings require some form of remediation. Every building has its own set of circumstances and at this early stage, we caution agents to be very careful that any charges to leaseholders are permitted under the new legislation. You should bear in mind that not all leaseholders enjoy the protection of the Act and the ability to levy charges depends on a wide range of factors including the nature and status of the landlord / freeholder, the nature of the work the demand relates to, and the amount of charges levied in respect of relevant building safety measures in previous years.

If there is any doubt, you and or your clients should take legal advice where necessary to confirm you / they are acting in accordance with the law.”

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
• Architect
• 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.

What do the different EWS1 ratings mean?

Please click here to view EWS1 rating graphic.

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.

Useful Contacts

If you would like to find out more information visit any of the below websites:

Not found the answer you are looking for?
Please get in touch via email at EWS@mainstaygroup.co.uk