Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in June 2017, the use of ACM cladding immediately fell under the spotlight. Subsequently, other cladding systems have been subjected to scrutiny and criticism. In May 2019, the Government announced that funding would be provided to encourage the removal of unsafe ACM cladding. This initial funding has now been closed to new applications from both the private and social housing sectors. In the March 2020 Budget, the Government announced £1 billion of additional funding in 2020/2021, under the Building Safety Fund, to remove certain other unsafe cladding systems. In May 2020 the Government published its registration prospectus, which details how to register and apply for this funding.
The fund will cover HPL (high-pressure laminate), wood and other class C/D cladding systems.
It is only available for the remediation of buildings over 18 metres high in the private and social residential sectors, and does not cover hotels, hospitals or other buildings where there are no residential leaseholders.
The funding does not absolve responsible parties (ie building owners) of their legal obligations.
In the private sector, funding will be applied for the benefit of the owners of flats who would otherwise have to fund works through service charge contributions. In the social housing sector, it will mainly be directed towards landlords who cannot afford to pay for the removal of unsafe cladding. If a building owner has commenced, or committed to fund, works prior to 11 March 2020, they will not be eligible for funding.
The funding will not cover the cost of a waking watch or remediation of other fire safety issues, such as internal compartmentation and fire doors. Some funding for professional and managing agents’ fees will be available.
As a condition of funding, building owners must pursue warranty claims and actions against those responsible for the unsafe cladding and repay this money to the Government once recouped. It is therefore important that building owners remain aware of the time limits for making such claims and take advice in relation to these as soon as possible.
If building owners do not remediate unsafe cladding systems despite this additional funding, the Government has stated that it would encourage and support enforcement actions through local authorities as well as through the fire and rescue services, using its powers under the Housing Act 2004 and the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005.
The registration process will be open from 1 June to 31 July 2020, prior to the publication of full guidance and technical criteria. A technical assessment will then follow, prior to the formal application phase. The full application process is expected to be open by the end of July.
It is intended that the application will be made by the building owner or manager for the benefit of the leaseholders.
The Government anticipates that works will be undertaken during the current financial year, with tender prices being submitted before December 2020.