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This page was last updated 4 May 2021
During initial investigation work into the External Wall System (EWS) at Highbury Gardens it was uncovered that issues with the compartmentation of the external wall at the property existed, some missing cavity barriers, some insulation that should be removed and that the timber decking used needs treating or replacing. This must be done before an EWS1 form can be issued for the buildings.
As a result of this, the management company Rendall & Rittner took advice from fire assessors and the local fire service and implemented a 24-hour fire patrol (“Waking Watch”), which has been in place at Highbury Gardens since 1 April 2021. This patrol is in place to alert residents and emergency services if there is any sign of fire in the building.
They have started the process of tendering for a contract to install a common alarm system at Highbury Gardens. This would then remove the need for the patrol.
We would like to reassure our residents their home is safe. All of our homes have an up-to-date Fire Risk Assessment, which are independently reviewed every year and any recommendations are dealt with immediately or, where appropriate, put into a programme of work to be completed within a suitable timeframe. We are in regular contact with the local fire service, and have taken all their advice and suggested measures to mitigate any risk to residents.
External Wall Surveys are intended for recording in a consistent manner what assessment has been carried out for the external wall construction of residential apartment buildings where the highest floor is 18 metres or more above ground level or where specific concerns exist on buildings lower than 18 metres.
The EWS1 form (or certificate) was developed by experts to help building owners record what assessment of the external wall construction of buildings has been carried out and the outcomes. Getting the information required to complete this form often requires significant intrusive testing of the fabric of the building. This is because to comply with current government safety guidelines, building owners cannot rely on the fact a building received Building Control sign off at the time it was built.
Many mortgage lenders will look at the EWS1 rating of a building in their decisions of whether to issue a mortgage on a property.
We are currently reviewing the findings of the report from Malcolm Hollis LLP which provided the rating and have requested clarification on some details. We will advise residents further once we have all the information. Residents should be aware that an EWS1 form/certificate has not yet been issued for the building and so we cannot yet supply this to residents. Once it has been issued by the assessors, we will ensure it is available for our residents.
We have requested a copy of the report from Rendall & Rittner and will advise further on this request.
We are working closely with the external managing agent (EMA), Rendall & Rittner, to ensure that the new alarm system is fitted quickly, so that the 24-hour patrol can be removed.
We will then be requesting a copy of the remedial works required and will share the programme of work for you to see.
We understand how frustrating and stressful this situation is for anyone caught up in the issues. In the meantime we are doing everything to support the progress of the programme.
We will keep residents informed about progress but it would be wrong to give assurances about timing at this stage when we just do not have all the information needed to make a reliable estimate. We appreciate this is frustrating and we will keep you updated as we know more and can give a proper timescale for completing the work on your building.
We completely understand how important it is to be able to get reliable information. Our Building Safety Team will work closely with Rendall & Rittner and other stakeholders involved to ensure that information is available to residents and us, in a timely manner. We have also set up a dedicated web site www.shgroup.org.uk/HighburyGardens where we will post updates and documents as they become available.
For general housing related issues your Housing Services Manager continues to be Jubedul Miah.
However, for all building safety issues including the progress of the programme the building safety team will be happy to answer your questions.
It can sometimes take a while to find the answer to things so please bear with us – we know this is a worrying time for residents so we will do our best to support you and answer your questions as fully as we can with the information we have.
You may find that your, or your potential buyer’s chosen mortgage lender is requesting an External Wall System (EWS1) 1 form. We currently understand that the development would be rated at a B2 level, although we have asked for clarification on why this is. Under most circumstances, you find that mortgage lenders are not willing to accept anything other than a B1 rating as a minimum for lending. However, we have been made aware that some lenders are willing to consider lending on a B2 rated property, so we would recommend speaking to your lender or mortgage advisor to see what could be possible.
We will be working closely with the management company Rendall & Rittner and other stakeholders to ensure that the building safety programme is completed as soon as possible although we recognise that this is a nationwide issue affecting many homes and therefore there may be some delays. If you are in hardship because of the timing of the programme for your building please speak to us.
We want to support our residents and recognise that this is stressful time for many. There may be other options that we can discuss with you that could help. In some circumstances, permission to sub-let to a tenant may be granted, although this is subject to our sub-letting policy conditions.
If you have fully staircased so that you now own the lease to your home then the terms of your lease will apply if you want to consider letting your home. You will still require permission, but we can provide more information if this applies to you. If you are a shared owner then our subletting policy will apply. We are happy to provide you with details of our policy upon request. We will consider subletting requests from shared owners but subject to strict criteria being met. Please contact us for more details if this applies to you.
We will do all we can to protect leaseholders from these costs.
Rendall & Rittner confirmed on 4 May 2021 that an application to the Waking Watch Relief Fund has been made for Highbury Gardens.
The purpose of the Fund is to cover the costs for installing a common alarm system which will allow us to remove the requirement for a Waking Watch.
At this stage the fund has not provided further guidance on the estimated timescales for review, however we will continue to provide weekly updates on this matter.
We anticipate that due to the number of applications being made across the UK, it is likely that we will have to wait some time before we hear whether these applications have been successful. We also understand that Rendall & Rittner has also registered a claim under the Premier Guarantee Building Defect Policy.
We are a charitable housing association and the way we are run and how we spend our money is regulated by the government. What this means in practice is that if we cannot find an alternative source of reimbursement for the costs of the work then we are obliged to seek to recover costs under the terms of leases. This is because the way we spend our money is subject to strict rules and we are not permitted to write off these costs if there is an alternative option. This is never our preferred way forward and we understand that this may be concerning for leaseholders. We hope that this will not be necessary but it would be wrong not to be clear about the possibility at this stage.
No. As part of the application to the government funds, housing providers have to show that they have looked at all options before putting in an application.
The letter you received is formally required to notify you of the EMA’s intention to carry out works and to offer you the option to propose any contractors who you think would be suitable for the task.
Rendall & Rittner, with our support, continues to seek funding from the MHCLG to cover the cost of this work. Please be aware that the Section 20 notice was sent to legally notify you of the possibility that costs may fall upon leaseholders. While we are not aware of any reason, at this stage, that Highbury Gardens would not receive the funding applied for, we have to accept that there is a risk of this happening.
However, the EMA has registered Highbury Gardens for the Government’s Building Safety Fund and the Waking Watch Relief Fund.
Until we have more details on the programme of works, costs and outcomes from the applications to the Building Safety Fund, the Waking Watch Relief Fund and the Premier claim, we are unable to advise further at this stage in regards to how this may impact on services charges, if at all. We are at a very early stage in this process, and will keep residents informed throughout the process.
We will give more information on this once we have further details on the programme of works, costs and outcomes from the applications to the Building Safety Fund, Waking Watch Relief Fund and the Premier claim.
Rendall & Rittner has confirmed that they require one single letter of approval from Southern Housing Group in regards to properties held under its Headlease. They have also confirm that there is currently no deadline for the return of this letter of approval however we can advise that the Group has now issued its letter of approval in respect of both its rented and leasehold homes along with details of the relevant policy certificate number for each.
The sum insured on the certificate for affordable homes reflects the initial 25% equity purchase when the homes were first sold. If you have staircased to increase the equity in your home then your level of cover will have automatically increased. You do not need a new certificate.
Under the terms of our head lease, we are obliged to work with the EMA in the first instance. We are currently reviewing the report from Malcolm Hollis LLP which provided the current rating, and once we have done this, we will clarify our position with our residents.
Together with our colleagues at the G15, a group of the largest housing associations in London, we are calling on the government to step in and provide clear guidance for both building owners and mortgage lenders on the proportionate implementation of their building safety advice notes.
Our hope is that this will reassure residents, encourage mortgage lenders to take a more considered view, and give building owners a reasonable and realistic timeframe in which to follow government advice.