What do amendments to the Building Safety Bill mean for the industry? Ross Wilson discusses all in Property Week magazine

What do amendments to the Building Safety Bill mean for the industry? Ross Wilson discusses all in Property Week magazine

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Ross Wilson, a Senior Associate in our Property Litigation department, recently wrote an article for Property Week on the amendments to the Building Safety Bill.

The full article can be seen on the Property Week website here.

Ross has been and continues to be involved in a wide range of cladding related disputes (both for building owners, tenants and at points at the Grenfell Inquiry). If you wish to discuss a potential cladding dispute, please contact Ross on +44 (0)20 7354 3000 or ross.wilson@colmancoyle.com.

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How the recent fire at New Providence Wharf could change the way unsafe cladding is removed

How the recent fire at New Providence Wharf could change the way unsafe cladding is removed

Just over a week after the Fire Safety Act 2021 received royal assent, a fire has engulfed three floors of the 19 storey New Providence Wharf tower block in east London.

According to news reports, a fifth of the tower’s external façade contained ACM cladding and it took 125 firefighters and 20 fire engines to extinguish the blaze. It was also reported that the main contractor was due to arrive on site three days after the blaze occurred. ITV has also reported that “residents did not hear [the] emergency alarm” during the fire.

The cause of the fire, the impact of ACM cladding (if any) and the inability to hear the fire alarm will surely be the subject of a thorough investigation. It nevertheless raises the question as to how the Government, other public bodies, Building Owners and tenants may react to remedial works (ongoing or otherwise) in respect other high rise residential buildings. For example:

1. Building Owners are already facing a number of challenges in removing unsafe cladding as soon as possible whilst also, for example, waiting for the outcome of applications to the Government’s remedial funds and / or navigating statutory requirements relating to service charge and consultation processes. Will the Government place even greater demands on and / or devise new penalties against Building Owners for failing to commence works imminently?;

2. Tenants’ already have an urgent and understandable need to be safe in their homes. Will the events at New Providence Wharf cause tenants to feel so unsafe that they collectively refuse to pay rent in protest? It raises an interesting prospect of how a Building Owner and / or Court will deal with such a situation given the reasons for non-payment. Some tenants may take it further and simply move out altogether to ensure their own safety. Will those tenants then try and seek to recover any additional losses (e.g. additional rent / moving costs) from their old landlord?;

3. Will there be a possible increase in the issuing of enforcement notices and improvement notices by the local Fire and Safety services and local authorities respectively and / or the use of additional powers under the Fire Safety Act 2021?; and

4. Could the events at New Providence Wharf result in the reintroduction of previous and / or the expansion of ongoing waking watches (especially where simultaneous fire evacuation procedures may not be working properly)? If this happens, who is going to pay for this often very expensive procedure? It also raises the question of whether some simultaneous fire evacuation procedures are suitable and how this may impact on any existing applications to the Government’s Waking Watch Relief Fund and whether the fund will be reopened after the deadline closed on 14 March 2021?

News of tower block fires such as New Providence Wharf are undoubtedly going to lead to the apportioning of blame. This may have the unfortunate side effect of leading to further delays in remediating fire safety issues and / or increasing costs which tenants may ultimately have to bear themselves. It may also affect how ongoing or proposed remedial works are to be undertaken in the future. It is therefore vital that Building Owners, management companies and tenants seek advice (if they have not yet done so) to understand how any fire safety issues can be addressed as expeditiously as possible whilst also seeking to recover all associated costs from any culpable third parties and / or limiting their own financial liabilities.

Colman Coyle’s Property Litigation department has and continues to act for various parties in this sector including Landlords, Tenants and Management Companies.

Ross Wilson

Ross Wilson

Senior Associate

Fire Safety Bill becomes Fire Safety Act 2021

Fire Safety Bill becomes Fire Safety Act 2021

The Fire Safety Bill received Royal Assent on 29 April 2021 and is now known as the Fire Safety Act 2021. The passing of this Act is bittersweet for tenants of multi-occupied residential buildings.

On the one hand, tenants can find comfort in knowing the duties of Building Owners have been widened to reduce the spread of fire. These additional duties also make it possible for Fire and Rescue Services to take additional action against those who are not complying. Furthermore the Fire Safety Act 2021 will make it easier and quicker for future legislation to be passed following any further recommendations arising from the Grenfell Inquiry.

On the other hand though, more Building Owners are starting to remove unsafe cladding from their buildings. Whilst this is a very positive step in terms of fire safety, it also means that more tenants are finding themselves being asked to fund those remedial works via service charge provisions in their leases. Unfortunately the Fire Safety Act 2021 does not include the eagerly sought after provisions preventing Building Owners from passing on the remedial work costs to tenants. This means tenants will continue to find themselves in the position whereby they are either having to pay expensive service charge demands or exploring ways to limit that liability and / or seek recovery from culpable third parties.

Colman Coyle’s Property Litigation department has and continues to act for various parties in this sector including Landlords, Tenants and Management Companies.

Ross Wilson

Ross Wilson

Senior Associate

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