The Building Safety Bill received Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament on Thursday 28 April 2022.
The Act introduces measures to ensure the safety of customers living in new and existing homes across the UK. Many of them are expected to come into effect in 12-18 months.
At the heart of the building safety reforms is the creation of the Building Safety Regulator (BSR) in England.
The Building Safety Act named the Health and Safety Executive (HSE) as the Building Safety Regulator which is implementing and enforcing a new regulatory regime for residential buildings over 18 metres or 7 stories in height. It also introduces an ‘Accountable Person’ who will have to listen and respond to residents’ concerns and ensure their voices are heard.
In addition, the Act aims to provide a series of protections for leaseholders including the right for building owners to launch retrospective legal action against developers or contractors for defective works up to 30 years after a home is completed, along with measures to shield leaseholders from the costs of cladding.
Developer remediation contract
The Government revealed a legally enforceable wide-ranging agreement that will see a minimum of £2 billion so those responsible for the cladding crisis can meet the costs of remediating buildings. So far, over 49 developers have pledged to fix all medium and high-rise buildings, taller than 11 metres that they have played a role in developing in the last 30 years. The list of signatories can be found here.
Costs of remediation work
We welcome the Government’s announcement that leaseholders in buildings over 11m are to be protected from cladding remediation costs. This much-needed assurance came into force on 28 June 2022 following the passage of the Building Safety Act 2022 through Parliament.
We know many residents have questions about the Building Safety Act and its implications on leaseholders. The Act makes a distinction between cladding remediation works and non-cladding remediation works for which leaseholders can be charged.
Whilst One Housing cannot advise on individual leaseholders’ circumstances, qualifying leaseholders for the purpose of the Act will be protected from paying for the costs of cladding remediation works. If there are any historical non-cladding building safety defects that need addressing, qualifying leaseholders could be asked to contribute towards the remediation works at a capped rate.
We are pleased to confirm that to date no One Housing leaseholders have been charged for cladding works.
Please rest assured that as part of our commitment to shield leaseholders from the costs of any remedial works, we have made applications to the Building Safety fund to obtain the funds to carry out the remedial works for those buildings over 18m. We will notify residents once the application has been submitted in writing.
We will also make applications for buildings which are between 11 – 18m when the separate Building Safety Fund opens for applications.
We will be in regular communication with residents in those blocks to keep them updated.
Our Cladding Remediation Programme
Our priority is, and always has been, the safety of our residents. We run a programme to test the external wall systems – including cladding, insulation and fire-stopping - across our buildings.
We own or manage around 1,200 residential blocks of which approximately 80 are high-rise blocks. We are working since 2021 on a six-year remediation programme for high-risk buildings, which includes buildings above and below 18m.
As of April 2023, we have secured compliant EWS1 forms for 122 buildings and surveyed all remaining buildings to determine if remediation is required. We have completed remediation of six buildings, with further 16 buildings being remediated. In addition, we have been in active negotiations with approximately 10 original contractors across 31 buildings since 2021.
We engage a team of independent Fire Engineers, Forensic Architects and Building Surveyor experts to carry out intrusive surveys when required. As a part of the process a Fire Risk Appraisal of External Wall Construction (FRAEW) report is produced so that we understand the wall make up. The FRAEW may recommend actions to address life safety fire risks presented by the external wall system cladding on the building.
Not every block will need a detailed and intrusive risk assessment. We have been reviewing all documentation relating to the construction of our buildings to help us decide on the order they should be surveyed. The programme prioritises buildings according to height and type of cladding as well as other safety factors.
Early last year the Government standardised how buildings should be prioritised with The Fire Risk Assessment Prioritisation Tool (FRAPT).FRAPT is an online tool created by the Home Office and the Protection, Policy and Reform Unit of the National Fire Chief's Council. It is for use by Responsible Persons to help them to prioritise updating and reviewing their fire risk assessment for their building(s) as set out in the new Fire Safety Act 2021.
We will be in touch before carrying out a survey of the external wall make-up of the building. Unfortunately, we are unable to provide a precise timetable due to the shortage of suitably qualified independent fire safety consultants to carry out the surveys and the huge demand for their services from the owners of thousands of buildings across the UK.
The first step of the survey is a desktop investigation where our Building Safety Team looks at all information we have available about the building, including building layout, plans, architects and construction drawings, statutory approvals and documents evidencing design and materials approved and used on the buildings.
The independent fire safety consultants will carry out complex and intrusive surveys that involve removing a panel from the building’s external wall system for close examination and, if required, thorough testing. They identify all materials used on the buildings external wall and whether they’ve been installed according to manufacturer recommendations.
In very few instances a BS8414 might be carried out. This a large-scale system test that mimics a fire breaking out of a window and exposing a cladding system to a severe fire. We will arrange for a BS8414 test to be carried out in an accredited test centre if required.
At the end of the investigation, an external wall system (EWS1) rating is given as well as a risk level (low, medium or high) in the case of a FRAEW report. Remediation is not required for A1, A2 or B1 ratings.
Our programme is dependent on the availability of qualified fire engineers and unfortunately there is an acute shortage of engineers qualified to undertake those assessments. On average, the whole investigation process takes around six to twelve months.
Once the specialists have completed the survey, they produce a report. This takes an average of four to five months. If a BS8414 fire safety test is needed, it may take longer.
When we receive the report, we will refer back to the original builders, designers and product manufacturers to fully understand the findings. We'll then provide residents with a summary of the report and explain next steps.
If remediation is needed, we use a dynamic risk matrix, developed by our independent advisors, to assess the risk of the building and decide the order of delivering our cladding remediation programme, addressing our riskier buildings first. So far we have delivered six remediation projects and are currently delivering another 16 projects.
For buildings that meet eligibility criteria, we apply for Government grants to fund the leaseholder element of remediation works. As part for this, we are required to take all reasonable steps to recover the costs of addressing the life safety fire risks associated with the cladding from those responsible through insurance claims, warranties, legal action. You can find more information on the Government’s website, including a guide for leaseholders.
When we can, we undertake legal actions against the original contractor. There are numerous critical details that must be ascertained before a legal claim can be made against original parties responsible for defects, including:
- the nature and extent of alleged defects. This requires consideration of the design and as-built construction of the building and whether it met the Building Regulations applicable at the time of construction. The process involves carrying out intrusive inspections.
- the nature and extent of appropriate remedial works to address the defects which requires expert input on an appropriate remedial solution; and
- whether any other parties share responsibility for the defects.
This can take some time since liability has to be established and agreed between the parties from both sides. We have been in active negotiations with approximately 10 original contractors across 31 buildings since 2021. The sector has found that it has taken over 18 months before negotiations have been successful and remediation works have been able to commence on site. This will vary from case to case as it depends on the willingness of the original contractor to engage. If the negotiations fail, we then start formal proceedings which will take another few years.
In addition, remediation on site works is then taking on average 12 to 24months.
The safety of our residents remains our top priority and we have robust measures in place to ensure your safety. We carry out regular fire risk assessments to highlight any work that might be required, as well as routine visual checks of communal areas to ensure there are no fire hazards.
We also maintain your fire safety systems such as Automatic Opening Vent (AOV) smoke control systems, emergency lighting, dry and wet riser sprinkler systems, in line with regulations.
Every building has its own fire strategy which includes an evacuation plan (which can be to either evacuate or to stay put) in the event of a fire.
This is reviewed after every survey, and we will write to residents if any changes are necessary. Where changes are needed, and in consultation with the Fire Service, we may install a waking watch or a fire alarm system until the works are carried out.
It is important that you make us aware of any change in your ability to evacuate the building. You will find a poster in your communal area outlining support available in case of an emergency.
If you require support, please contact us, so that we can develop a personal emergency evacuation plan (PEEPS).
This is a plan for a person who may need assistance, for instance, a person with impaired mobility to evacuate a building or reach a place of safety.
Please contact us on 0300 123 9966 or email email@example.com so we can discuss your needs.
Waking watches are people we employ to patrol a building around the clock to look out for smoke and fire. They will alert residents to any potential dangers with an alarm or by knocking on doors. Fitted in individual properties and communal areas, fire alarms detect heat and sound an alarm if the temperature rises above a certain level.
If a fire alarm system is later installed, the waking watch may be scaled back or removed in consultation with the Fire Brigade.
If your building has a waking watch and you or anyone in your household would need help to get out of the building in an emergency, please contact us on 0300 123 9966 or email firstname.lastname@example.org We will ill prepare a PEEPS and the information will be shared with the Fire Service.
This is likely to apply to people with mobility issues, visual or hearing impairments, young children or the elderly.
All of the residential blocks we own or manage were fully compliant with existing building regulations at the time they were constructed.
Since the Grenfell tragedy, when it became clear that other buildings with cladding may pose a risk, the Government has issued guidance to ensure the safety of buildings and residents. In response, we’re carrying out in-depth investigations into the external walls of over 200 buildings and are on track to have completed these by the end of 2023.
We also carry out assessment of external walls as part of the FRAs on a regular basis and take forward any recommendations noted.
Yes. Celotex and Kingspan insulation were widely used in the construction of buildings across the UK.
We have remediated all our buildings with unsafe ACM cladding. Due to inadequate fire testing of the product in conjunction with other types of cladding, Celotex and Kingspan along with all combustible materials is now banned wall make-up of buildings of buildings above 11m.
In response to the Government’s post-Grenfell building safety guidance, we've been investigating the external wall systems of our buildings where Kingspan or Celotex wall insulation was identified after Grenfell. We have immediately removed and replaced these where our experts have advised.
In some cases, in line with expert advice, we have introduced additional safety measures until the remedial work is carried out. These include fire alarm systems and waking watch. We are not charging leaseholders for these interim fire safety measures.
Under the new fire safety order, checks of external walls on all buildings, irrespective of height, are included as part of the regular fire risk assessment. If there are any potential cladding issues, these will be identified as part of that process and managed on an individual basis.
The Government’s position is that buildings under 11m present a significantly lower overall risk. Therefore, these will be considered on a case-by-case basis to ensure that any remediation measures taken are appropriate and the leaseholder will not receive unjustified charges.
Consequently, lower-cost and more proportionate than cladding replacement (for example fire alarms or sprinklers) might be considered. We will take this into account when reviewing the lower rise blocks that are in our investigation programme.
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.
If you have questions regarding the safety of your building, please email email@example.com. You can also read our Building Safety Newsletter here.