In December 2018, the government issued new guidance (referred to as Advice Note 14) regarding cladding on buildings over 18 metres high. In response, we introduced a programme of testing across our taller blocks. Advice Note 14 was superseded in February 2020 and guidance now relates to all blocks with cladding, irrespective of height.
Our testing programme is prioritised based on factors such as building height and the type of cladding used, and the tests are carried out by independent fire specialist consultants. The tests are complex, intrusive and time-consuming and involve removing samples of a building’s external wall system for close examination and thorough testing. The consultants look not only at the cladding itself, but also other elements of the external wall system, such as the type of insulation used and fire-stopping. Once they have completed their survey they produce a report of their findings and we provide a summary of the report to residents. Once a survey has been carried out, it takes on average three or months for the results to come back.
The fire specialist consultants who carry out the tests are in extremely high demand and, with many thousands of buildings across the UK affected by the new guidance, there is a major shortage of people qualified to carry them out. This means there may be considerable delays in arranging for tests to be carried out and, as such, we are unable to say exactly how long the process will take.
If the cladding does not meet the new requirements, we will determine what work is necessary to make the building compliant. We are putting together a programme of remediation works across our portfolio, prioritised according to risk. We will let you know when we have more details.
The safety of our residents remains our top priority and we have robust measures in place to ensure your safety. We also carry out regular fire risk assessments to highlight any work that might be required, as well as routine visual checks of community areas to ensure there are no fire hazards. The Guidance Notes issued are retrospective, however it is important to note that all of our buildings complied with relevant building regulations and when they were constructed.
If you're a leaseholder or shared owner and you're considering re-mortgaging, selling or buying more shares in your home, please read this important information.
The Government announced in the Budget on Wednesday 11 March a £1bn building safety fund for the removal and replacement of all unsafe combustible non-ACM cladding.
Funding will be available to remediate buildings in both the social and private residential sectors of 18 metres in height, and over. This is welcome news from the Government. We are still waiting on further clarity as to what it means for us. We also need further detail on how the fund will work, who is prioritised, who can claim and the conditions attached to any funding we could receive. The Government, however, has been clear that as a condition of any possible award of funding, we as building owners must pursue warranty claims and appropriate action against those responsible for putting unsafe cladding on these buildings. Where remediation work has to be carried out on one of our buildings, we will therefore be contacting the original contractors to seek costs.
We appreciate that this is still an unsettling and difficult time but we want to reiterate and reassure you that your safety is paramount. We have robust measures in place for your on-going safety. We have begun a process of inspecting all buildings of 18 metres and over that we own, to ensure that they are safe. Unfortunately, despite the positive news of possible funding, the process of testing and any remediation that needs to take place on buildings will still take time. We will of course continue to keep you updated and we appreciate your patience during this challenging time.