Cladding replacement and removal – frequently asked questions
Why is the cladding & fire safety work being carried out?
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) has established the Building Safety Programme to make sure that buildings are safe - and people feel safe - now, and in the future. MHCLG has issued a number of advice notes which sets out the immediate actions that building owners should take to address the risk of fire spread. The Building Safety Programme sees the creation of new regulations around building and fire safety and building owners must bring their properties into line with these requirements. Our Cladding and Fire Safety Programme is one of the streams of activity in this area to ensure all our developments are compliant.
What does the cladding and fire safety programme include?
The cladding and fire safety programme involves remediating dangerous cladding systems. This may involve removing the cladding itself, the insulation, or it may involve remediating defects in the cavity barriers which were missing or wrongly installed. The cladding and fire safety programme will deliver remediation to both cladding and associated fire safety works, such as breaches in compartmentation and fire door replacement.
Who will pay for the work?
Our first course of action is to pursue contractors or insurers where they are responsible and where it is legally possible to do so. We are also looking at all other avenues to take on costs, including government funding, if the block meets the criteria.
What are SBHG doing to help?
We recognise this is a stressful time and leaseholders will be concerned about the prospect of increased service charges. Please be assured that we are investigating every option to cover the costs of this work and service charges will not be affected unless every alternative has been exhausted. We are actively lobbying government to provide funding for buildings under 18m. We want to ensure that we keep everyone up to speed with the progress of the remediation works. We will be doing this through our regular updates.
Is my building safe?
The safety of our buildings is our top concern, which is why we are committed to remediating any safety issues, with priority given to our highest risk blocks. This is a complex, lengthy and costly process. Following the surveys, and with guidance from our Fire Safety team and Fire Engineers, we identified that some of our buildings needed risk mitigation measures put in place until the necessary remedial works can be completed. These have included changes in evacuation strategy and 24/7 patrol, known as Waking Watch. The Waking Watch are on-site to monitor the building for signs of fire and to sound an evacuation signal should a fire occur. We completely understand that residents may feel concerned over the action that is being taken, but we would like to reassure you that this approach is precautionary and has been developed in consultation with fire surveyors and fire assessors to ensure the safety of all residents. The most important thing you can do is to ensure you evacuate the building in the event an alarm is raised and make your way to the assembly point. We are fully meeting the cost of the waking watch provision.
Why haven’t works started?
We have carried out initial surveys at all affected developments. Further investigations are also needed to ensure the correct works are carried out. The safety of our buildings is our top concern, which is why we are committed to remediating any safety issues, with priority given to our highest risk blocks. This is a complex, lengthy and costly process. The works are also subject to a Section 20 process, which involves consultation with leaseholders which has strict timelines that we have to follow.
What is an intrusive survey?
Intrusive surveys are an observational and invasive survey of building components and Systems which assist us in identifying how a building was constructed. This allows our specialist fire safety experts to determine what materials were used in the construction of the building and whether fire safety standards have been met. Samples of the external wall system, such as cladding, will be taken so that its performance can be tested.
Will I receive a copy of the survey report?
Any reports produced as part of our cladding & fire safety programme are for the sole use of SBHG. Disclosing information from reports could compromise our ability to pursue the original developer and this would not be in the best interests of residents or SBHG. We will, however, produce a summary of the findings of each report and we’ll share these findings with residents and we’ll keep you informed of the next steps.
How long will the works take?
This is dependent on the results of the intrusive surveys. Once we know exactly what remediation works need to be done, we’ll have a more accurate timeline. However, we anticipate this programme to be complete by the end of 2023.
What is an EWS1?
The EWS1 form (External Wall System fire review) is designed to be used for residential properties such as blocks of flats. The EWS process, and resulting form, is a set way for a building owner to confirm that an external wall system on residential buildings has been assessed for safety by a suitable expert. The EWS1 process delivers assurance for lenders, valuers, residents, buyers and sellers.
Can I sell my home?
Many lenders will not offer leaseholders or shared owners a mortgage or loan on a property with cladding without a completed EWS1 form. We are working hard, on your behalf, to obtain EWS1 Certificates for all of our affected blocks.