Updated: Dec 9, 2020
Following on from the recent announcement made by Robert Jenrick, we have already been asked for our views by several clients and therefore share these below. Not un-typically such announcements are short on details and we understand that the lending and insurance market have not as yet fully endorsed all of Mr Jenrick’s statements.
In summary the announcement states:
• Buildings without cladding are not subject to an EWS1 form.
• 2000 more assessors will be trained to advise on external walls.
• The Government are working with the PI market.
Taking each point:
• There is no definition as to cladding or extent.
• Currently EWS1 forms for buildings below 18m is only being asked by lenders and insurers.
• This announcement is aimed to stop lenders requesting EWS1 forms on low risk buildings ie. brick clad.
• Cynics may say that even if EWS1 are not allowed to be requested by lenders, they simply may choose not to lend on high rise flats and apartments. It also has recognised the defects likely to exist have not gone away, but the risk is recognised as less.
• For public sector property managers this announcement does little other than to ease pressure on shared ownership sales and staircasing.
• The Accountable Person will also be responsible for compiling a building safety case for each block which will be reviewed every 5 years by the Building Safety Regulator (for buildings over 18m).
• For Buildings over 18m the draft Building Safety Bill will make sure that those responsible for the safety of residents are accountable for any mistakes and must put them right. It will fully establish the regulator that will enforce new rules and take strong actions against those who break them.
• For building under 18m the draft Fire Safety Bill states:
“The responsible person for multi occupied residential buildings must manage or reduce the risk of fire for: external walls including cladding, balconies and windows.”
• To enable building owners to manage the risk of fire within the external wall an external wall survey and assessment will become a mandatory element of an FRA.
2000 More Inspectors
• There are very few qualified fire engineers and in order to obtain the necessary qualifications this can take up to 5 years.
• Google tells us we can get an FRA for as little as £125 per block. Some RPs are tendering this work on a requirement of 1000 per year, if this is to include external wall surveys this is worrying.
• Sadly the skill level to do an FRA is relatively low although many Chartered Surveyors cannot get insurance to do them. How the RICS will manage any entry into the qualification process is not yet known.
• Many have questioned how good these new inspectors will be with such a short training process.
• This is a wait and see issue.
• The wording here is vague and fundamentally the issue is the industry, not insurance for EWS1 forms.
• Most professionals in the sector have exclusions for claims relating to fire either directly or indirectly.
• The insurance industry is reeling from claims arising from Grenfell and invasive work to obtain EWS1 forms or the surveys required for the building safety case.
• The PI insurance market has shrunk and I see no reason why insurers would expose themselves to risks from EWS1 forms issued by newly ‘qualified’ inspectors.
• We see the prospect little meaningful progress here.
• The Government has sought to reduce the number of flat owners who are unable to sell their properties. Their proposals place the responsibility to ease this on to lenders and insurers. The Government can claim to have addressed those low risk buildings in the hope that lenders and insurers will play ball.
• For building owners, nothing changes in our view if buildings have some form of cladding. We, however, believe it would be prudent to obtain an EWS1 form for any building over 18m.
• For Buildings under 18m, the requirements of the draft Fire Safety Bill still require the responsible person or duty-holder for multi-occupied, residential buildings to manage and reduce the risk of fire for the structure and external walls of the building, including cladding, balconies and windows.
Author : Mark Humphreys