Posted Tuesday, June 16, 2020
So far, 2020 has certainly been a time of massive change, with a key shift toward focussing on the health of our staff and loved ones, and no-one can deny that it's been a tough year to date for everyone! As managing agents, property management is essential for the health and safety of buildings and residents. Our work has had to continue as much as possible to the same standards as our customers expect, and with a few changes to the way we operate, backed by reliable contractors, it has been a relatively smooth process.
But don't think cladding has slipped off the radar at any time during this period - new industry research suggests half a million people could be living in unsafe buildings and concerns that the costs to put it right may fall to Leaseholders continues. Lockdown can only have added to residents feeling trapped in an unsafe building, as spending nearly all day indoors could surely increase the likelihood of a domestic accident sparking a fire amid further delays to remediation work.
What are we doing?
Late last year Fexco Property Services were part of a new coalition, formed to urge the government to step in and assign more funding to the cladding crisis. The open letter that the Chancellor received was signed by resident groups and professionals, trade bodies, property managers, freeholders, and building owners, and seemed to gain a fair amount of traction in the months to follow.
ARMA stated: "In an open letter to the new Chancellor, the group has called on the Government to step in following failures in the building safety regime that have dated back decades. Without support, leaseholders may be left having to pay the price, which is likely to run into the billions."
Chancellor Rishi Sunak announced a new £1bn building safety fund to support the removal of “all unsafe combustible cladding” from highrise buildings during his Budget in March, however, the government predicts that this fund will only cover a third of the buildings in the country that need work. In the meantime, our clients and customers living the cladding nightmare have continued to receive professional support and advice from our teams. The plan that we outlined last year has been progressing, all be it at a slightly slower rate due to some restrictions caused by the lockdown, and we continue to join forces with official bodies and Fire Regulatory Services.
Our cladding plan
Following ARMA guidance we have been progressing through a formal process that takes us from identifying which buildings are deemed at risk, to carrying out surveys where necessary and organising works as specified from the survey report. As with any process, it can be difficult to establish a firm timeline of events, and some steps are reliant on third parties supplying information to us or taking certain actions, but having a process in place we know exactly where every building stands on the timeline, and more importantly what needs to happen next.
Some buildings may have to be given priority with remedial works starting sooner than on other buildings; this may be due to the type of materials identified in the survey being classified at ‘higher risk’. We appreciate that homeowners may feel frustrated that things are not moving at a pace that they would wish for, and may also be concerned about what is happening on their site or other sites nearby, such as Fire Authorities carrying out inspections or cherry pickers onsite that require areas to be cordoned off. Because of the unrest and uncertainty in the media, online and amongst residents themselves, it's vital now more than ever to be vigilant about communication, and the need for consistent reassurance to homeowners that we are doing all we reasonably can to keep them safe and move things along as quickly as possible. Regular update meetings with RMCs and Directors via Teams and Zoom, and correspondence with residents at timely points in the plan have ensured everyone knows why things are happening around their building.
As a group, we have additional capabilities, resources, and expertise within our brands. We have expanded our in-house H&S team to ensure that we can meet the expectations set out in our plan. Our legal and compliance team ensures that we are best placed as trusted advisors, and our communications teams are proactive in addressing issues or concerns from clients and customers. So in the battle between COVID19 v CLADDING20 there is no winner, and we're fighting both equally hard.