Since the Grenfell Tower tragedy, it has been clear that fire safety regulations had to be reviewed. A new amendment to the Building Regulations is coming into force on 21 December, banning the use of combustible materials in the external walls of high-rise residential buildings. This applies to:
The ban also applies where building work is a "material change of use" that brings an existing building within one of these categories.
The government has announced its "full backing" for local authorities to enable them to carry out emergency work on affected private residential buildings with unsafe aluminium composite material.
This includes financial backing, although local authorities will be expected to recover the cost from building owners. This is not mentioned in the Regulations and may simply indicate support for local authorities in using their existing powers relating to unsafe buildings, including those afforded by the Building Act 1984 (to serve enforcement notices in the case of unsafe buildings).
However, one issue is causing concern. On private residential blocks of flats, the lease will usually specify that repair and maintenance costs - for example the removal of dangerous cladding - can be added to the annual service charge that the landlord charges to their tenants rather than being paid by the landlord themselves. This could be very large indeed.
Whilst it is always wise to arrange a survey when buying a property, it is now doubly important that you instruct a surveyor to ensure that no dangerous cladding materials have been used.
This article also appeared in the Watford Observer