Why has the inspection process taken so long for us?
We are aware some residents have been waiting a long time for an EWS1 form and the process to date has been lengthy.
EVML did find it difficult to find the appropriate professionals with the right experience to undertake this piece of work. While some inspections at East Village were undertaken at the end of 2019 and early into 2020, the progress was slow. In response, EVML engaged additional façade and fire engineers to deliver the programme. Getting the new engineers on board took some time, it was not until June last year that we had more certainty and confidence in the programme. There is a significant, national, demand for fire and façade engineers and it took some time to secure good teams of engineers.
The inspections at East Village were prioritised based upon a combination of technical (including safety) requirements and resident need. In some case, buildings needed to be re-inspected because of significant safety concerns. This had an impact on the programme.
Regardless of the practical reasons for the delay, we’re aware how difficult this has been for leaseholders, particularly those waiting for an EWS1 form; and both EVML and Triathlon Homes are sorry for the delays and the on-going uncertainty.
Who is going to be paying for the required remedial work?
EVML has registered the blocks for the MCHLG’s Building Safety Fund, and additional information from the fire and façade engineers has been sent to the MHCLG for them to assess the eligibility. We have no reason to believe the buildings will not be eligible, but are not able to guarantee this given the number of applications being made across the UK, and the limited funding available.
We have not yet made a detailed application for funding and are waiting for more news from the MHCLG regarding eligibility and the process for applications to the funding announced in February 2021.
The Building Safety Fund only covers the cost of repairs to the external wall system. The installation of smoke detectors or any work on the balconies will not be covered by the fund. The cost of these works would need to be funded through other sources. This could include recharging through the service charge. When we have a costed plan from EVML, we will let you know the potential cost to residents.
We are actively exploring a legal claim against the original builder and EVML’s solicitors are progressing this. A formal claim has not yet been made because we do not yet know the full cost of remediation. We will keep residents updated when progress is made, and we have a clearer idea of how this can move forward.
Both EVML and Triathlon have warranties against the contractors, and we can call on those. However, we would expect they will be challenged. If this is the case, then we will need to make a decision about litigation.
Doesn't the reserve, or sinking fund cover this type of work?
Some residents have raised the possibility of using the reserve, or “sinking” fund, as a way of offsetting costs to residents.
At East Village, the sinking fund is used for two main purposes, the long-term maintenance and repair of the blocks (lift renewal etc.) and shorter term projects such as the decoration programme. The fund is held by EVML on your behalf and audited annually. Some residents would like to draw on these funds for the fire safety work. However, on an East Village wide level, using the sinking funds for the fire safety works would leave the fund unable to meet the future obligations to repair the blocks.
How did we end up in this position?
You, like us, would have expected adequate quality control through the construction process, and appropriate diligence when the buildings were signed off by the local authority’s building control. These questions are being investigated by EVML and they are crucial to any legal claim. EVML has requested additional information about the construction from Lendlease.
Please could you provide a copy of the fire engineers reports?
We are unable to share the fire engineers reports for legal reasons. We appreciate this may be frustrating, but it is to protect your interests should the document be used in any legal case in the future.
We have given information about the contents of the reports to residents and you should be able to find more information about this here. Please let us know if you don’t find what you are looking for.
What work has been proposed by the fire engineers to mitigate any risk?
The fire engineers have proposed that a valid EWS1 Form can be issued without full remediation of the defects but instead, by implementing and assessing other mitigating measures. The fire engineers wrote a report for EVML’s independent fire risk assessors and for the London Fire Brigade. The report detailed the defects. The purpose of the report was to assess any impact on safety from defective cavity barriers, to consider the risk and appropriate mitigation.
The fire engineers proposed that any increased risk could be mitigated by smoke alarms which do not need to be linked between flats and that any escape route is adequately protected.
At Saddlers House and Cavesson House the two areas the fire engineer focused on were defective cavity barriers between party walls and timber decking on balconies.
What is the process for agreeing the fire engineer’s recommendations?
The London Fire Brigade has commented on the report and have asked for the view of an independent fire risk assessor. The fire engineers have had a number of discussions with EVML’s fire risk assessors who have rightly been seeking additional clarity and assurance.
The fire risk assessors have a statutory responsibility for fire safety. They have not yet stated they are fully satisfied with the mitigating measures proposed. They have recommended a specific Fire Risk Assessment be undertaken in the buildings. The assessment will be more intrusive than the standard assessment carried out annually by EVML. The focus will be on escape routes and fire detection systems.
EVML is in the process of commissioning this work. They are looking at a range of suppliers and looking for an organisation who can undertake the work quickly. It is possible that the outcome of the assessment proposes some work to the buildings to ensure the safety of escape routes.
There will need to be a review of the fire strategy for the building to ensure this approach remains compatible with the strategy. [The current approach is a ‘stay put’ policy, which has not changed.]
EVML has also completed an audit of the smoke detection systems in each block.
Why is this taking so long?
We appreciate this has been a slow process and it must be frustrating. At the moment, we are unable to confirm when we can get you a valid EWS1 form. We are sorry that we’ve not met the timetable we outlined when we met with you in April.
In the main, the delay is due to two things. It’s a complex area of work and there is no set blueprint to follow. Fire engineers are analysing specific circumstances and materials. They need to review test data and need to understand how different materials may behave in a fire. Secondly, the pressure on the sector (fire engineers and fire risk assessors) is significant at the moment. EVML has a very good relationship with its fire engineer and fire risk assessors but they are one of a number of clients.
The fire engineers and fire risk assessors are also considering the impact of any new legislation which might have an impact on the outcome of their decisions, such as the Building Safety Bill and the Fire Safety Act 2021. This is also to ensure their advice meets the requirements of the new Act.
EVML is continuing to progress this work and it remains a priority.
How much is this likely to cost and will the costs be passed on to leaseholders?
At the moment we are unable to give you the full information about costs. We’ll update you about this when we know what work, if any, will be required. There are some costs related to the fire engineers reports and for the fire risk assessors. We do not yet have a price for the fire risk assessment.
These are eligible service charge items. They are not included in your current service charge. EVML are keeping a separate service charge account of all cladding related costs and we will share this information with you when more costs are certain.
Will you still need to fix the underlying defects in the building?
A decision has not yet been made about making good the underlying defects and we need to be certain it is the right decision for current and future leaseholders. The decision-making process will be robust and we will scrutinise the technical advice, the costs, the impact on value, the view of the building’s insurers and take further legal advice.
We have not yet heard from the Government’s Building Safety Fund and do not yet know whether the work is eligible for the fund. In the short-term, our priority is to focus on ensuring each building has a valid EWS1 form.
We wish we were in a position to give you more certainty about this. We are working through all the issues in turn and will keep you updated about progress. Some leaseholders have already commented about this and your feedback is welcome.
What is being done to chase the original contractors for our buildings?
We are unable to comment on legal matters but can confirm that no formal legal action has started in respect of your plot as we are still ascertaining the correct remedial strategy and costs. A number of different contractors and sub-contractors were involved in the construction of your plot and we are unable to comment about them specifically.
We will do what we can to keep you updated about any legal processes but will not be able to share specific details with you. This is to protect any legal case and while it sounds as though we are being evasive, it is in the best interests of residents.