This section was last updated 24 June 2021
What is the current situation at Southdown House?
We understand that an External Wall Survey (EWS) was completed in May 2021, and Southdown House was issued with a B2 rating. As a result, some remedial work will be required in order to bring the building to a B1 rating, which is the level that most mortgage providers will consider lending upon.
Austin Rees is working with both the developer and the freeholder of the building to understand what work may be required, and is awaiting confirmation from fire engineers regarding any need for immediate interim measures. As soon as we have further information on this, we will inform residents.
Does this mean that the building isn’t safe?
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.
When will work be taking place?
We are awaiting a further update from Austin Rees about the scope of works that are required. Once we have this information, we will be able to let residents know what the proposed timelines are, as well as answer other questions regarding the work.
What should I do if there’s a fire?
Residents should follow the latest fire safety advice, which is located here.
Will leaseholders be charged for the costs of the remedial work?
We will do all we can to protect leaseholders from these costs, and will work with the External Managing Agents to apply for government funding are to recover costs from third parties where this option is available.
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.
This situation is causing me hardship - can Southern Housing Group help me?
We will be working closely with Austin Rees 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.
What should I do if I wish to sublet to a tenant?
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 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.
How can I find out more?
We completely understand how important it is to be able to get reliable information. Our Building Safety Team will work closely with Austin Rees to ensure that information is available to residents and us, in a timely manner.
For general housing related issues your Housing Services Manager continues to be Sharon Botting.
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.
We'll be updating these pages whenever there is new information.
What is the EWS1 form for?
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.
Can residents have a copy of the EWS1?
We have asked that the EWS1 form is released to residents by the EMA. When it becomes available, you will find it in our Important Documents section.
I’m trying to staircase/re-mortgage/sell my flat – How will I be affected?
You may find that your, or your potential buyer’s chosen mortgage lender is requesting an External Wall System (EWS) 1 form. We currently understand that the development would be rated at a B2 level. 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.
What else is the Group doing?
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 time frame in which to follow government advice.