By Kamran Shah, Partner, Penman Sedgwick LLP
Flat owners in high-rise (and other less substantial) blocks are still having to contend with the risk to life 4 years after the Grenfell Tower fire, as well as the continuing difficulties in selling or remortgaging their flats.
Whilst there was revised guidance issued in March 2021 by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) to ensure that only those blocks where there are risks of costly remediation as a result of safety concerns from cladding are subject to additional checks, and therefore to reduce the number of wall safety surveys (known as ESW1s) being requested by valuers on behalf of Banks and Building Societies, this has not had the desired effect. Flat Owners are still being asked for ESW1s where there appears to be little or no flammable material attached to their blocks, and there is no obligation on valuers and lenders to follow the guidance issued by the RICS.
The Government’s £5bn fund to protect Flat Owners from the costs of cladding remediation has also been largely untouched as managing agents and other stakeholders are concerned that all the associated costs around cladding will not be covered by the fund.
The continuing uncertainty means that Flat Owners are paying for interim safety measures including patrols and alarms, which does not in any way actually resolve the cladding issue. A very recent announcement by the Government is a consultation on one of the recommendations from the Grenfell enquiry on introducing personal emergency evacuation plans (PEEPs) in high-rise residential buildings. PEEPs seek to provide people who cannot get themselves out of a building unaided with a bespoke escape plan in a fire emergency. PEEPs in the workplace are already the norm, but they are not usual for high-rise residential blocks. This is adding another layer of financial pressure upon Flat Owners.