Guidance for Lessees……..

Following the Grenfell tragedy on 14th June 2017, the safety of residents particularly within high rise buildings (of 18m in height or 6 storeys high) has been a key focus for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government which was then subsequently extended to all multi-storey, multiple-occupied residential buildings as of January 2020.

The key focuses have been on the construction of the buildings and in particular the external wall systems and balconies (be them clad, rendered or have any type of combustible material used in its construction that does not meet the current standards) with immediate focus being on buildings which are 18m or over in height. Once assessed, an EWS1 form is then produced to either sign off the building as compliant or to advise of further remedial works required.

This investigation has been extended to buildings of all height where there is an external wall system present on the building. Chamonix Estates have been in contact with multiple developers to obtain construction detail on blocks within our portfolio so that this detail may then be passed through to a competent Risk Assessor to determine what (if any) action is required. As you will appreciate, this is a very large exercise being undertaken and so we are working through our portfolio of properties, focusing on the larger more complex buildings.

Once we obtain the building construction detail, we hope to pass this over to an assessor to identify if there are any remedial works required to your apartment block.

The EWS process, and resulting form, is a set way for a building owner to confirm to valuers and lenders that an external cladding system on residential buildings in scope above 18m in height (approx. 6-storeys) has been assessed by a suitable expert. Not every building in scope above 18m will require an EWS form – only those with some form of combustible cladding or combustible material on balconies.

The process itself, involves a “qualified professional” (see below) conducting a fire-risk assessment on the external wall system, before signing an EWS1 form, which is valid for the entire building for 5 years.
By exception there may be some residential buildings below 18m which may have ‘specific concerns’. These would be 4 & 5 storey buildings in scope which may have combustible cladding or balconies with combustible materials, which are only a clear and obvious danger to life safety and may require remediation in accordance with the latest Government advice;

https://www.gov.uk/guidance/building-safety-programme

Whilst we do not envisage residential buildings 1-3 storeys in height requiring an EWS form, we are seeing an increase in requests from mortgage lenders/customers/solicitors to provide a signed EWS1 form for all buildings, regardless of height. This exercise is costly, and whilst there is no current legislation in place to advise that an EWS1 form is required for smaller buildings, the advice from the government is still to review any potential “at risk” blocks and investigate and undertake potential remedial works that have been identified.

This exercise may be costly and so regrettably we have had to review the estimate for the forthcoming year and add in some increases to your reserves and also include a survey cost should we be required by your Landlord/Management Company to have one undertaken. Once we have reviewed your block, we will update all residents accordingly and keep you informed of any potential remedial works required.

Please note, this matter is affecting all residential blocks of flats across the UK with external wall systems. Government funding has started for high rise (18m+) apartment blocks for the removal of unsafe cladding and Chamonix have applied for this funding on all blocks within our portfolio of properties that fall into this category. So far, no funding has been announced for buildings under 18m in height but we are listening out for further government announcements. For any blocks where we have been advised of remedial works required to the external wall system, we are advising the house builder immediately and asking for their stance in respect of contributions towards these remedial works.


Advice relating to fire safety and mortgage requirements………

 

Over the past few years the government has focused on the subject of fire safety and building safety and a number of new steps have been introduced to help keep residents within multi-story, multi-occupied buildings safe. One such requirement is the completion of form EWS1 to record what assessment has been carried out for the external wall construction of residential apartment buildings, where the highest floor is 18m or more above ground level or where specific concerns exist.

There is currently no legal requirement for buildings below 18m to undertake such an assessment but following a statement from the Government in January 2020 suggesting the extension to all other buildings in due course, many lenders have updated their own lending requirements to ask for evidence of the assessment and completion of EWS1, even though there is no legal requirement to do so.

This is problematic as the review must be signed off by an independent, qualified professional with a high level of insurance cover, and there are very few individuals who meet this criteria. As a result, the sharp increase in mortgage lender requests for statements of compliance coupled with the lack of suitable assessors, has created a backlog on a national scale. In some instances we are seeing a lead time of 18 months for the assessments.

We have always undertaken fire risk assessments to buildings and will ensure the appropriate safety measures are in place and where required to do so, will arrange for the external wall fire assessment to be undertaken. However the challenges with the lack of appropriately qualified and insured individuals’ means that buildings must be prioritised based upon the level of risk. As a result it is not possible to meet the request to supply the completed EWS1 form for all buildings which do not legally require the assessment, but where a lender insists upon it. Where this is likely to affect a sale, we would recommend that residents contact their mortgage lender for further advice on how best to proceed. As different mortgage companies will have different lending requirements, not all providers may require an assessment.

This is an industry wide issue and the trade bodies representing building managers and managing agents are seeking urgent support and guidance from the Government. We will do all we can to assist in the interim but clearer advice is necessary.

If you have any concerns relating to your own building please get in touch.


Helpful Links

 

More information and guidance can be found by visiting

https://www.gov.uk/housing-local-and-community/building-regulation

https://www.gov.uk/government/publications/building-safety-programme-waking-watch-costs/building-safety-programme-waking-watch-costs