The Building Safety Bill had its second reading at the end of July, signalling big changes for the safety of buildings going forward. But while the second reading demonstrated clear progress on the Building Safety Fund and promised positive news on the continuing EWS1 Form debate, responses from major lenders have been muted about the lack of clarity around timeframes, leading critics to suggest that there is still work to be done.
Building Safety Fund updates
- The Building Safety Fund is reopening for applications this autumn, allowing any buildings in England that missed out the first time around to apply.
- The Housing Secretary stated that almost 700 buildings have already been registered, totalling an estimated £2.5 billion of funds. £540 million has already been allocated through the fund.
- Over 95% of buildings with cladding similar to that used in Grenfell tower have been either fully remediated or are in the process of being remediated, with work being carried out on site.
- Under the Building Safety Bill, lenders and fire assessors will be advised not to presume there’s a significant ‘risk to life’ in a building without evidence to support this. The emphasis looks set to change from proving there isn’t a problem to having to prove there is.
- The Government is continuing to analyse and promote ways to give leaseholders the right to recourse on costly remediation and make sure that they aren’t held accountable for remediation bills they can’t afford.
Further changes to EWS1 forms
The results of the second reading of the Bill initially seemed to have resolved the issue of the controversial EWS1 form when the Housing Minister definitively said that EWS1 forms should not be a requirement for buildings below 18 metres. An estimated 61,000 buildings of between 11 and 18 metres in height seemed to have been granted a reprieve from the lengthy EWS1 form process, which has left thousands of leaseholders trapped in properties they can’t sell.
The UK’s major lenders have said that although they welcomed the news, they would not alter their approach to requiring an EWS1 form for mortgage approval until RICS updated its guidance note on the matter. This guidance was released in March 2021 and clarified exactly which buildings would require an EWS1 form, and included buildings of 18 metres or lower if they met certain criteria. A consolidated advice note (CAN) by the Government from January 2020 also considered buildings below 18m in height to require an EWS1 form. They have since announced that this will be withdrawn.
For more on the Building Safety Bill, watch Quarterly Legal & Compliance Updates for Block Managers Q3, part of a series of webinars with leasehold lawyer Cassandra Zanelli. In this edition, we discuss the latest on topics such as EWS1, the role of the building safety manager, and the Bill itself, focusing on the results from its second reading in Parliament.