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Advice and support for leaseholders (non council)

Fire safety FAQs for leaseholdersRSS FeedAtom Feed

Answer:

Responsibility for a fire risk assessment in your building could be with:

- the owner (freeholder)

- a residents’ management company

- a Right to Manage company

- a managing agent.

In law, a ‘responsible person oversees fire safety in the shared parts of a building. For blocks of flats or large houses in multiple occupation (HMO) this is usually the freeholder or management company.

They give some of these responsibilities to a managing agent. This can include arranging or reviewing fire risk assessments.

The responsible person (or agent) may carry out the fire risk assessment themselves or employ someone else to do it.

Answer:

The law does not specify who can carry out a fire risk assessment. It states that the person must be competent enough to complete a ‘suitable and sufficient’ assessment of that building.

Answer:

In law, there are no specific time periods for how often fire risk assessments must be done or reviewed. It states that the responsible person for assessments in your building must review it ‘regularly’ to make sure it’s up to date.

The responsible person must review the fire risk assessment if:

- there’s reason to think it’s no longer valid (for example, if there has been a fire in the shared parts of the building)

- there have been significant changes since the assessment was done (for example, major building works or more people using the building)

The assessment itself might also have a recommendation of how often it should be reviewed or updated. Reviewing an existing fire risk assessment can take less time than carrying out a new assessment. So, reviews can be done more frequently.

The Local Government Association (LGA) has guidance on fire safety in purpose-built blocks of flats. For low-rise blocks of up to three storeys above ground, built in the last 20 years, fire risk assessments should be:

- reviewed every 2 years

- redone every 4 years

For blocks with higher risks (for example, because of the age of the building), or those more than 3 storeys high, fire risk assessments should be:

- reviewed every year

- redone every 3 years

In extreme cases (for the highest-risk buildings), the LGA advised a new fire risk assessment once a year.

Answer:

The external wall system is made up of the outside wall of a residential building.

This includes:

- cladding
- insulation
- fire-break systems

The external wall may be a cavity wall, rainscreen cladding system or an External Wall Insulation (EWI) system.

Answer:

An EWS1 certificate is an External Wall System Fire Review certificate. 

They come into play when a leaseholder is buying or selling or re-mortgaging an apartment in a multi-storey multi-occupied residential building.

 It is not a building safety certificate or a legal requirement. It is a mortgage valuation tool. EWS1 certificates are not issued by the Fire Brigade.

 The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and mortgage lenders jointly created the EWS1 form. It was launched in December 2019 as a way for mortgage lenders to assess the external wall safety of buildings over 18 meters.

It helps them decide whether to offer a mortgage on any given apartment within multi-storey, multi-occupied residential buildings.

Over time, they have been used for buildings under 18 meters. This reflects the Government’s Building Safety guidance published in January 2020 which applies to buildings of any height. 

To find the latest information on which buildings EWS1 forms apply to, and current exemptions for buildings under 18 meters, please see Cladding Q&A (rics.org).

 

The certificate gives two main options:

  • Option A is for buildings where the external wall system is unlikely to support combustion.
  • Option B is for buildings with combustible materials present in the external wall system, which may or may not need to be remediated.

The survey outcome for each block will fall into five categories, or ratings:

 

Option A

A1 rating There are no attachments whose construction includes significant quantities of combustible materials (i.e. materials that are not of limited combustibility).
A2 There is an appropriate risk assessment of the attachments. This confirms that no remedial works are needed.
A3 Where neither of the above two options apply, there may be potential costs of remedial works to attachments.

 

Option B

B1 Surveyors conclude that in their view the fire risk (Note 8) is sufficiently low that no remedial works are required.
B2 Surveyors conclude that an adequate standard of safety is not achieved, and they have identified to the client organisation the remedial and interim measures required (documented separately).

Answer:

The EWS form must be completed by a fully qualified member of a relevant professional body within the construction industry.

They must have the expertise to identify the relevant materials within the external wall cladding and attachments. This includes whether fire resisting cavity barriers and fire stopping have been installed correctly.

The council cannot approve individual persons who can deliver the EWS1. They also cannot advise on who can and cannot complete the EWS1 form/ process.

 Only qualified chartered members of the relevant professional bodies such as IFE and RICS will have the necessary self-assessed competence and professional indemnity insurance to carry out this work

There are very few people in the UK who have the qualifications and experience to sign an EWS1 certificate.

There is very large number of buildings affected across the UK.
There can be long delays to appoint an appropriate person to do the survey and sign the certificate.  

Answer:

EWS1 forms apply to the whole building and are arranged by the building owner. Individual leaseholders are not able to purchase or arrange EWS1 surveys. EWS1 certificates are valid for 5 years.

The RICs website gives further information for leaseholders who are concerned about:

- Certificates being re-issued with a changed rating

- NIL valuations

- Height of buildings and where an EWS1 is required

- Who is responsible for obtaining an EWS 1 certificate

- Who can sign an EWS1 certificate 

This an example EWS1 certificate.

You may be able to sell a leasehold apartment without a current EWS1 certificate, where the buyer does not require a mortgage.

However, buyers may seek a substantial reduction compared to any previous market value of the apartment.

Answer:
  • Ask your managing agent for a copy of the Intrusive Survey Reports for your building which lead to both the previous and downgraded EWS1 rating. It will help you understand what new information came to light. 

  • Ask your managing agent for a copy of the Fire Risk Assessment for your building. It will help you see what risks have been identified and what actions have been recommended to address the risks.

  • Ask your managing agent if they will be applying to the Building Safety Fund to pay for any remediation work needed.
Answer:

Please ask:

  • your managing agent for a copy of the Intrusive Survey Report for your building
  • your managing agent for a copy of the Fire Risk Assessment for your building. It will let you see what risks have been identified and what actions have been recommended to address the risks
  • them what has changed that has led to the decision to appoint a Waking Watch
  • your managing agent what other steps to address the fire safety risk they have considered and rejected. This could be improvements to fire doors, temporary alarm systems or changing evacuation procedures
  • your managing agent if they have secured three independent quotations for the Waking Watch provider
  • to see the service specification for the Waking Watch provider so you can see what service they should be providing to you
  • your managing agent if they will be applying to the Waking Watch Relief Fund to pay for any Waking Watch required
  • your manging agent what steps they are taking to address the fire risk more permanently. This will mean that Waking Watch can be removed as soon as possible
Answer:

Please ask:

  • the insurance provider what information they’ve seen that led them to increase the premium. Has the insurance provider been given an accurate picture of your building and the risks?
  • your managing agent if they looked around and got independent quotes for insurance.
  • your managing agent what, if any, additional premium has been added which is paid to either the managing agent or the freeholder. Ask if this can be removed.
  • what the insurance provider said could be done to reduce risk and reduce the premium. For example, would a temporary alarm system reduce the premium? Will the premiums reduce if the remediation work is completed? Would the premium reduce if unsafe cladding is removed pending any replacement?
  • or check the FCA website for the latest information given to insurers.
Answer:

Please see the advice from Leasehold Advisory Service

If you continue to have problems getting details from your freeholder or managing agent, contact fire-safety@towerhamlets.gov.uk, your local councillor or MP.

Answer:

The government has set up a Fund to support the remediation of buildings that have ACM and other types of cladding.  The Fund has strict criteria. For more details please see Remediation of non-ACM buildings and Private sector ACM cladding remediation fund: prospectus 

Making an application to the Building Safety Fund is a complex process.  Applications to the Building Safety Fund are made by the Freeholder/Managing Agent/Right to Manage Company rather than individual leaseholders. 

The Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) have useful information that explains what managing agents / freeholders have to do to complete a Building Safety Fund application.

Answer:

This is a major challenge for many leaseholders. Even buildings that are eligible to apply to the Building Safety Fund may find that not all of the remediation work need is covered by government funding.

Costs not covered by government funding or paid for by the freeholder/developer or by a warranty, will fall to leaseholders to pay.

Tower Hamlets Council believes it is unacceptable that leaseholders should have to pay for problems they did not make. We are working alongside leaseholders to press the government on the matter.

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More support and resources

  • The government has information on Building Safety Programme and other fire safety concerns.
  • Leaseholders can access free initial specialist advice to understand their rights through the Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE). Read more information on LEASE, including how to contact them for advice.  
  • The Leasehold Knowledge Partnership (LKP) is an independent registered charity that gives help leasehold issues, including cladding. It also acts as secretariat to the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Leasehold and Commonhold Reform.  You can sign up for a e-newsletter which will keep you informed about cladding and leasehold issues.  They also offer an advice service.
  • The Mayor of Tower Hamlets or councillors can help you approach your freeholder or managing agent if you do not feel that you are being told about progress. You can also contact your MP.
  • Citizens Advice to find out how to manage financial challenges of paying for high service charge demands. 
  • There is also a list of other places to seek financial advice and support listed given by End Our Cladding Scandal
  • If you feel you may struggle to keep up to date with mortgage payments, speak to your mortgage lender early.