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Navigating the post-Grenfell regulations for cladding and external façade’s

Posted on March 10 2021

Since the tragic events at Grenfell Tower in 2017 and the subsequent inquiry and review, the safety and suitability of apartment buildings throughout the United Kingdom has remained a particular focus of government, regulatory agencies and the media.

Recently, the government’s Building Safety Programme (BSP) has predominantly focused on identifying and advising on short-term, interim and remedial measures for existing high-rise residential buildings with Aluminum Composite Material cladding. The BSP has also developed wider reforms to be integrated into future building safety regulations, with a view to ensuring the safety of residents in multi-level dwellings and the prevention of any future tragedies such as Grenfell.

When the government released the Building Safety Advice for Building Owners Guidance in January 2020, it was interpreted throughout industry as mandating that a building’s exterior wall systems must be compliant with regulations. A subsequent consequence of the guidance’s release has seen mortgage lenders and surveyors raise safety concerns about buildings during the sales process, rendering some apartments and even entire buildings as unmarketable without remedial works being undertaken. The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) designed and issued the External Wall System form (EWS1) as a mechanism to remove such barriers to transactions, whilst providing all parties with assurances that the building had been appropriately reviewed and was deemed safe for occupation and use. An EWS1 form can only be completed by a suitably qualified, professional surveyor and, typically, only after extensive surveys are undertaken of the building to determine if the cladding, materials, and construction methods are safe and compliant. The government has made available £3.5 billion to help fund the remediation of unsafe exterior wall systems on high-rise buildings where they have been identified as non-compliant with the new regulatory framework.

The emerging focus on exterior wall safety has created a further challenge for landlords and asset owners in a market already subject to high levels of fluctuation and uncertainty due to the prevailing pandemic. While these additional regulations can appear complex at first glance, the process for gaining and maintaining ongoing compliance is straightforward when properly understood and proactively managed. Omnia Property Group are an accredited member of ARMA (Association of Residential Managing Agents) and were actively engaged with ARMA-led discussions with the Ministry of Housing, Council and Local Government (MHCLG) about the revised compliance framework introduced by these new regulations and the potential impact they would have on leaseholders and landlords.

Subsequently we have been able to liaise with our clients to facilitate required surveys, well in advance of other operators within industry. Buildings within our managed portfolio that may be impacted by the new regulatory framework are already well advanced with ensuring their compliance with the new guidance and, where appropriate, funding applications to the government in anticipation of any required remedial works.

As part of our commitment to ensuring our client’s assets have their value protected and maintain compliance, we have been working alongside national leaders in cladding remedial works to familiarise ourselves with emerging industry best practice and ensure that the advice we provide clients is current and relevant. Working alongside the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, we have maintained diligent and straightforward communication with our landlords and their tenants during this process. Omnia established a dedicated External Façade Working Group, consisting of qualified residential property managers and building surveyors, to ensure that any properties that we manage have non-compliance issues progressed in a safe, timely and professional manner. Where our working group has identified a requirement for remedial works, we have deployed our industry knowledge and experience to effectively manage the required works programmes from inception through completion and are at the forefront of industry in managing funding applications on behalf of our clients.

The penalties and indirect negative impact on valuation that non-compliance with the new guidance and revised regulatory framework can impose on landlords are substantial. Omnia is well positioned to advise clients on the impact of these new regulations and how best to navigate their requirements to protect the value of your asset, ensure its compliance and maintain its safety.

If you are uncertain as to how the new regulatory framework and guidance could impact you or are seeking advice on how best to navigate the new requirements, reach out to one of Omnia’s highly qualified property managers on 0114 2792840 or for a confidential and no-obligation discussion.

Joanne Race

Managing Director, Omnia Property Group