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Fire safety update

Following the Grenfell Tower fire the Government has issued a succession of advice notes and guidance for landlords relating to the fire safety of buildings. These require building owners to review the fire safety of external cladding and insulation, external fire stopping and all internal fire stopping measures.

As a response Newlon has set up a special projects team and appointed specialist fire safety engineers and forensic architects to carry out investigation works for buildings we own. In a few places we have homes as part of larger developments where there are separate freeholders and managing agents who will hold these responsibilities. We are prioritising these works for taller buildings (over 18 metres) and where we consider there is most potential risk. For example we have prioritised taller buildings with any kind of rain screen cladding over buildings that are brick clad.

As this issue affects many thousands of building nationally and there are only a limited number of suitably qualified experts this programme will take some time to complete. It is therefore possible that we have not yet been able to carry out these investigations where you live.

We also carry out a range of other regular checks at all of our buildings, including Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs), to check the fire safety of your building. Should any additional safety measures be identified these have been put in place.

It is possible that once we have completed detailed investigations remedial fire safety works will be required. In this instance we will contact residents to explain the works that are needed and the timescale for them to be completed. Where works are required we will need to create a detailed specification, as well as going through a procurement process to appoint contractors and carrying out consultation with leasehold residents. It is therefore likely to be several months before works can commence.

In some cases as a result of FRA actions or where we have already carried out detailed inspections and determined that remedial works are required we have appointed fire wardens until such a time as works are completed. This is resulting in significant ongoing costs which we have not passed back to residents.

Advice and guidance for Shared Owners and leaseholders if you are thinking of selling, staircasing or re-mortgaging your home

If you are planning to sell, staircase or re-mortgage your home you may find that this is currently difficult because of the approach lenders are taking to the Government’s advice notes. Since the start of 2020 many lenders are asking for a form EWS1. This is a standardised form signed off by a suitably qualified chartered professional (often a fire engineer) to assess a building’s fire safety compliance.

Form EWS1 is being requested for many thousands of buildings nationally and as with the inspection process there are only a small number of suitably qualified experts able to undertake this work. This means that although we can request an EWS1 for any building we have no control over when it will be received. In addition if a building has not been through the detailed inspection programme and been signed off as fully compliant, or if it has been through the process and remedial works are required, it is unlikely that EWS1 will reflect this position. It is uncertain how different lenders will view a non-compliant EWS1 and whether they will only accept applications for compliant buildings. It has been reported some lenders are rejecting applications even with completed EWS1 forms for a variety of reasons. It may therefore be very difficult to sell your home or you may find it hard to staircase or re-mortgage. Some lenders are also additionally asking for separate cladding compliance certification which may also prove difficult to provide where remedial works have been identified or detailed inspections have not yet been carried out.

However, please note that approaches differ between lenders, from building to building and according to people’s individual circumstances and Newlon has no control over valuations or the granting of mortgages and the terms attached to them.

Support and advice for selling your home

If you are considering selling your home it is a requirement of your lease that you inform us of your intention to do so, even if you are a 100% leaseholder. We recommend contacting us before you incur any costs or make any long-term plans dependent on being able to sell your home. We also recommend that both you and any prospective buyer should speak to a mortgage adviser if you are using one or any lenders involved to understand their approach to the Government’s advice notes before spending any money.

Our resident sales team will provide as much support and advice as we can with the sales process.

For any enquiries about selling, staircasing or re-mortgaging please email resident.sales@newlon.org.uk.

Option to sublet

We have introduced a new policy to allow people to sublet if they want to move, but are struggling to sell their home because of issues related to the Government’s fire safety guidance. Applications can be made by filling in the form on the subletting page.

In these circumstances you can sublet for a year at a time and then for a further six months once any works have been completed.

Some residents have asked if we can buy back their home or their share, but we are not able to do this. Not only is this a national issue over which we have no control but we are already incurring significant extra costs for fire safety works, investigations and additional short term safety measures such as patrolling fire wardens, which we are doing our best not to pass back to residents.

New staircasing applications

Newlon is continuing to allow people to apply to staircase, but if you are considering doing so this needs to be at your own risk and we will not be able to refund fees if the process is unsuccessful.

This issue has started to achieve a level of national prominence and we are hopeful that lobbying by the social housing sector as well as private landlords and MPs will result in a new approach from lenders that will allow people to move home and staircase more easily.

We realise that this is a difficult time for many of residents and want to reassure you that we are doing everything we can to carry out any works and investigations required and to maintain the fire safety of our buildings.

Contacting us about fire safety

If you have any questions or enquiries about fire safety please email firesafety@newlon.org.uk. If you have a more urgent enquiry please call our Service Centre on 020 7613 8080. In an emergency please always dial 999.