Following the tragic events at Grenfell, fire and building safety has become one of the most pressing issues facing residents, homeowners and the residential property sector.
We’re seeing higher standards than ever on building safety, and most important are the issues around cladding and fire safety. Our customers rightly want a safe home environment and peace of mind that regulation and standards are being exceeded.
We have heard a lot of views on how buildings affected by the new government safety guidance can be made safe and mortgageable in 2021, but there is growing recognition that there isn’t yet sufficient support to help all homeowners.
For those homeowners affected, this is an extremely difficult and worrying time with much uncertainty over the Government funding support. We are doing everything we possibly can to support our residents through this process.
The property managers’ role
A property manager’s role is to manage the maintenance of buildings, and any shared residential amenities and communal areas. Our role and responsibilities within the current building safety regime include; being the main point of contact for homeowners on building and fire safety matters, using our expertise to identify what works need to be done, and selecting the right specialists to get the job done.
However, it’s important to remember that property managers do not build or own the residential buildings they manage so we work closely with freeholders and other parties involved in the building safety agenda – this includes freeholders, developers, the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) and enforcing authorities among others, to help with problem solving and decision making.
Navigating the building safety agenda
Two of the biggest challenges relating to the new government building safety guidance we’ve helped homeowners navigate over the last year have been:
1. Obtaining the EWS1 form and rating from a suitably qualified engineer where this is achievable.
2. Working through the Government Building Safety Fund process for those buildings where funding is an option.
Both these challenges have significant consequences for residents, including impacting their ability to secure mortgages and potentially exposing homeowners to high costs required for surveys and remediation, as well as rising buildings insurance costs.
With the stakes so high, we set up a dedicated Building Safety Team working exclusively on dealing with the buildings affected by the new building safety guidance. This team, as well as our operational colleagues, are communicating regularly with residents at every stage. This includes resident meetings (typically via Zoom at the moment) for those homeowners who feel this is helpful, as well as Q&As and regular updates to our EWS content on our website.
We have, so far, seen some good outcomes, with some buildings that have applied for funding being confirmed as eligible to apply. However, the pace of change is still slower than many homeowners would like. With the Government deadlines to make final decisions on which buildings will receive funding extended to 30 June 2021, and many buildings yet to learn if their application has been successful for the next phase of the Building Safety Fund, this uncertainty is set to continue.
Our priority will always be the safety of our residents, and we are supportive of the Government’s aim to ensure that all buildings are safe. FirstPort, our industry bodies and many other parties involved, are continuing to liaise with Government to contribute positively, seek to constructively address issues, and outline concerns based on our experiences. Fundamentally, clarity on what will happen after the Building Safety Fund closes will play a major role in maintaining momentum and providing homeowners with confidence in the building safety agenda.
Malcolm Rogers, Director of Building Safety, FirstPort