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Building owners have been urged to act fast and put the safety of residents first as the government’s £1 billion Building Safety Fund to remove dangerous cladding, as announced in the Spring budget, was formally launched today by Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP.
Government has today (26 May 2020) published the prospectus for the fund which they intend to meet the cost for remediation of unsafe non-ACM cladding systems on residential buildings in the private and social sector that are 18 metres and over and do not comply with building regulations.
Building owners, freeholders or others responsible for the building are being urged to register for the fund on Monday as applications can be progressed alongside the development of the remediation project.
The fund’s application process has, we are told, been designed to enable projects to proceed at pace and The Housing Secretary, mayors and local leaders have also pledged to ensure vital building safety improvements continue during the coronavirus pandemic.
Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick MP said:
“Today I am launching our £1 billion fund to remove unsafe non-ACM cladding from buildings. This is work that must take place as an absolute priority to keep residents safe and brings total funding for remediation up to £1.6 billion.
“I will not accept any excuses from building owners who have yet to take action and those responsible should register for the fund so that they can start the remediation process immediately. I have also reached an agreement with local leaders so that this important work can continue safely during the pandemic.
Building Safety Minister Lord Greenhalgh said:
“Now that this additional £1 billion funding is in place, building owners must crack on with removing flammable cladding on all high-rise residential buildings that are over 18 metres.
Today a joint letter from IRPM and ARMA has been sent to Lord Greenhalgh seeking a meeting to discuss the prioritisation of funding and related matters as a matter of urgency.
The government press release makes it clear that this fund is predominately targeted at supporting leaseholders in the private sector facing significant bills. However, the government is clear that for leaseholders living in buildings owned by providers in the social sector, it will provide funding to meet the provider’s costs which would otherwise have been borne by leaseholders. The government goes on to say it “expects landlords to cover these costs without increasing rent for their tenants”; a slightly odd statement for a leasehold building, more directed at social landlords and build-to-rent operators, we assume.
In the private sector, the Building Safety Fund for the remediation of non-ACM cladding systems will meet the capital costs of removing and replacing unsafe non-ACM cladding systems on high-rise residential buildings. Funding will also be provided for mixed use residential and commercial developments in both sectors.
It will not apply to buildings under 18 metres in height (although the government has asked the question of buildings just below 18m in their Registration Form Annex A) and other non-residential buildings, such as hotels, hospitals and buildings where there are no residential leaseholders. The form also asks about insulation and fire risks such as a lack of firestopping, and if warranties are in force.
The government is already providing £600 million (£400m to the social sector and £200m for the private sector) for the replacement of ACM cladding systems bringing total funding for remediation up to £1.6 billion.
Ministers have been clear that they expect building owners who are already remediating their buildings should continue to do so and should explore every opportunity to fund this work before seeking funding from government or passing on costs to their leaseholders. It will be important, we suspect, to demonstrate that warranty and developer contributions have been sought and exhausted. Where remediation work has started on buildings with non-ACM cladding systems in scope or where work had been previously committed to, prior to the Budget announcement of the fund on 11 March 2020, these works will not eligible for the fund.
Government has also appointed Faithful & Gould to address gaps in their data on the systems, with buildings owners encouraged to register their buildings so the organisation can assist the government in driving forward the pace of remediation.
Applications to the fund should come from building owners, freeholders or a managing agent responsible for the upkeep of a block of flats. While leaseholders are not able to apply individually for the fund, government are providing a feedback form to enable them to let the government know if they are concerned the owner of their building is not taking sufficient action to remediate unsafe cladding, or is passing remediation costs onto leaseholders.
Changes to Approved Document B – sprinklers and signage
It comes as the government has also published an amendment to the statutory guidance to building safety regulations – otherwise known as Approved Document B. These changes will ensure sprinkler systems and consistent wayfinding signage are mandatory in all new high-rise blocks over 11 metres tall when they come into force.