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Fire safety FAQs

Answers to some of our more frequently asked questions about fire safety for leaseholders

About the new building safety guidance

  • Why do you need to inspect my building?
    Following the tragic fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017, the government changed its building safety guidelines by issuing a series of advice notes.

    These advice notes were intended to give building owners clear guidance about how to make sure their properties are constructed and maintained safely.

    Over time the advice has evolved and will eventually become law, however in the meantime building owners like L&Q are now required to inspect our buildings to ensure that they meet the new guidelines.
  • What do the new fire safety guidelines advise?
    We are responding to the Advice for Building Owners of Multi-storey, Multi-occupied Residential Buildings (also referred to as the Consolidated Advice Note’), published on 20 January 2020, and the subsequent Government Update on Building Safety issued on 2 April 2020.

    The key requirements that we must address are:
    • Buildings that are 18 metres and above, or more than six storeys high (whichever is lowest), should use only materials of limited combustibility (or that have passed certain safety tests) in the construction of their external walls
    • Materials used in the construction of external walls and balconies of buildings that are 18 metres and above or more than six storeys high (whichever is lowest), must have been installed and maintained correctly
    • Building owners should assess and manage the risk of external fire spread for buildings, of any height of multiple occupation which have communal parts; taking into account factors including external wall systems and balconies
  • Are the new building safety guidelines law?
    This guidance is not yet law but is does reflect the expected requirements of the new Fire Safety Bill and Building Safety Bill which are currently progressing through the House of Parliament and are expected to become law in 2020 and 2021/22 respectively.

    You can find more information about both of these pieces of legislation on our fire safety pages. We also have a list of terms that you will often hear when discussing fire safety and what they mean.
  • My building doesn't have any cladding. Why does it still need to comply with the new building fire safety guidance?
    The new building safety guidelines apply to all buildings of multiple occupation, regardless of the materials used in the external wall construction.

    This is because the guidelines cover all elements of the wall construction such as insulation and cavity barriers (barriers used to restrict the movement of fire and smoke within a building), as well as the external construction material and balconies.
  • Why is the new building fire safety guidance affecting leaseholders in particular?
    In 2019, mortgage lenders and valuers began asking people who applied for mortgages on properties in some apartment blocks to provide independent certification that the building meets the requirements of the latest guidelines before they would lend on it.

    Building owners must now go back and undertake complex intrusive inspections (which involve opening up multiple walls to check the materials they are made of), carry out safety tests, and in many cases complete remedial works before this proof can be provided. This has created a national issue with thousands of leaseholders finding that they cannot to sell, staircase, or remortgage their properties until this work is done.

    We acknowledge that this has had a life-changing impact on many of our resident’s lives and we apologise for this. We will be doing everything we can to support residents who have had their plans to sell, remortgage or staircase their homes disrupted, both through delivering our building safety programme as quickly as we can, and by working with our partners to lobby government to enable people to move safely and with confidence.

About the inspections that L&Q need to do

  • What is the difference between a Building Safety Programme inspection and an EWS1 form?
    A Building Safety Programme inspection will result in a fire engineer, or Chartered Building Surveyor’s, report which confirms whether or not your building meets the new building safety guidelines, and will tell us what works we need to do if it doesn’t.  You may also hear these inspections referred to as Consolidated Advice Note Inspections.

    The EWS1 form was developed by the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) and is often requested by mortgage lenders to prove that a property meets the latest building safety guidelines. An EWS1 form rates the fire safety of a building based on the likelihood of improvement works being required. It is not on its own a guarantee of safety, which is why the Building Safety Programme inspection is also required.

    You can find more information about the EWS1 process by visiting www.rics.org/ fire-safety/ and clicking on ‘Cladding Q&As’.

    At the time of writing, most mortgage lenders are asking for a completed EWS1 form before they will lend on a property, although some will accept a fire engineer, or chartered building surveyor’s, report if it states that a building does not require any remedial works.
  • What types of building need an EWS1 form?
    EWS1 forms are mostly requested by mortgage lenders for buildings over 18 metres in height which may have combustible material on their external walls or on their balconies, however lenders may ask for a completed form for buildings that are below this height if they have a specific concern.

    EWS1 forms are only required for buildings which contain leasehold properties where people might want to sell their home or make changes to their mortgage, and where they have been requested by a lender. However, to ensure that residents regardless of tenure feel safe in their homes, and to ensure social tenants are able to exercise the Right to Acquire/Right to Buy their home in future, L&Q has decided that we will carry out EWS1 inspections for all of our buildings that fall under the criteria of the EWS1 scheme as outlined above. This includes many buildings that are below 18 metres tall or have six or less storeys.
  • What will your Building Safety Programme inspections look at?
    Our Building Safety Programme inspections will involve opening up various sections of the building and looking at the full ‘external wall system’, including the materials used (such as cladding and insulation) and the way the wall is constructed. The inspection will also look at balconies where present.
  • Will I be able to stay in my home while my building is inspected?
    Yes, there will be no need for you to leave the building while the inspections take place as they will largely look at the outside of your building.

    In some cases we may also need to inspect the communal areas inside your building. Where this is the case, we will let you know in advance and there will still be no need to leave your home.
  • Who will carry out the Building Safety Programme inspection?
    All affected buildings will be inspected by an independent, qualified fire engineer or a chartered building surveyor appointed by L&Q.
  • Can residents commission inspections outside of the L&Q Building Safety Programme?
    The building owner (L&Q) is responsible for obtaining an EWS1 report from a Building Safety Programme inspection and for carrying out any remedial works required as part of the certification process.

    We are aware of a small number of cases where residents have commissioned their own inspections, only to find that their reports are not satisfactory. There have also been some instances nationally where residents have been offered fraudulent inspections.

    For this reason, L&Q cannot permit, under any circumstances, the commissioning of an EWS1 or any other type of building inspection by residents. L&Q will not be liable for any costs resulting from damage to buildings caused by residents who ignore this advice.
  • Do my Building Safety Programme inspections require renewal?
    EWS1 forms must be renewed every five years. We will be able to consider how we will support these renewals once our remedial works programme has been agreed.

    Buildings requiring remediation works will need to have an additional Building Safety Programme inspection when these are completed to ensure that the works have been successful.
  • Is it likely that coronavirus will cause delays to the fire safety-related work timings you have shared?
    We share the government’s view that remedial work to high-rise buildings with unsafe materials and making sure buildings are safe ahead of remediation are critical to public safety.

    We’re working hard to make sure that wherever possible, essential fire safety-related work continues during the coronavirus outbreak. This includes inspections, remedial work already in progress, fire risk assessments and work related to gas and electrical safety.

About the scheduling of inspections

  • How did you decide when my building will be inspected?
    As we own so many buildings affected by the guidance, we're not able to inspect, test, and then carry out works on them all at once. Instead we must prioritise our buildings based on risk. Our highest risk buildings, defined by height, occupancy and building materials, among other factors, will be inspected first.

    You can find more information about the way we are prioritising our buildings for inspection on our fire safety page.
  • My home is amongst the first to be inspected - does that mean it is definitely unsafe?
    If your building is being inspected sooner this does not automatically mean that it is unsafe, but it does mean that the likelihood of your building requiring some form of work to make sure that it meets the new building safety guidelines is higher than some of our other buildings.
  • Why can't you give an exact date for my building to be inspected?
    We will be working with external consultants to deliver our inspection programme. We need to build in flexibility to our timetable, as until we start each inspection, we will not be able to fully understand the depth of the investigation required.

    For example, in some cases, depending on what we find when we start to look at a particular building, we may need to erect scaffolding to inspect it further, so the inspection will take longer.

    Offering an initial inspection window provides the flexibility needed to deal with such changes, but still gives you an idea about when your building will be looked at.
  • When will you give me a date for my building to be inspected?
    We will be in touch again a few weeks before your inspection is due to take place. This may mean that you hear from us during your inspection window rather than before it.
  • Why can't you give us a date for any remedial works to be done now?
    Any necessary remedial works cannot be programmed until a building has been inspected.

    As we are inspecting hundreds of buildings in each phase, any resulting works will again need to be prioritised based on a variety of factors, including risk.

    This means that we may not always be able to carry works out as soon as they are identified. Where this is the case we will install additional fire safety measures to keep you as safe as possible.
  • Will you be starting remedial works before the inspections programme completes in December 2021?
    The remedial works that may be needed for tall buildings (more than 18 metres) will be considered on a case-by-case basis, however as works must be programmed based on a variety of factors, including risk, we are unlikely to be able to confirm when the majority of remedial works will start whilst the inspection programme is still underway.

Resident safety during the inspection programme

  • How will I know my home is safe if my building doesn't need an EWS1 form?
    Every L&Q building with ‘common parts’ (meaning an area of the building which is used by more than one household) will undergo an inspection to ensure that it meets the latest building safety guidelines.

    The type of inspection will depend on the size and type of the building. Small buildings with only a few households can be inspected as part of our regular programme of Fire Risk Assessments. Larger apartment blocks may require intrusive Building Safety Programme inspections (where the walls of the building are opened up and examined).
  • How will you keep me safe if the inspection of my building requires works to be done but they can’t be done straight away?
    The safety of our residents is our top priority. To make sure that any buildings requiring remedial works are as safe as possible before these can be done, we’ll be putting additional safety measures in place where necessary such as a new detection & alarm system or a Waking Watch. We may also change our evacuation policy from ‘stay put’ to ‘evacuate’ where applicable.

    For buildings where our prioritisation work has led us to anticipate that the likelihood of works being needed is high, we may install a new fire detection system before, or at the same time as your building is inspected to keep you as safe as possible.

    L&Q will inform residents where an evacuation policy changes, as well as where additional safety measures are put in place. Residents will not be charged for the new fire detection systems or Waking Watch.
  • What safety reassurances did you receive from the developer when my home was built?
    We would like to reassure our residents that all of L&Q’s purpose-built apartment blocks:
    • received Building Control sign-off at the time of build
    • received approval from a licensed warranty provider after they were built.
    In addition to this all of our buildings have an up-to-date fire risk assessment – we review these each year for our high-rise blocks (18 metres and above) and any recommendations are dealt with immediately or put into a programme of work to be completed as soon as possible.

    We can provide a copy of the fire risk assessment of your building, if you would like one. Please contact us by email at fireriskassessments@lqgroup.org.uk

How will remedial works be funded?

  • Will I have to contribute to the costs of remedial works for my building?
    L&Q will explore all opportunities for funding before considering whether or not to reclaim costs for remediation works from leaseholders.

    In the first instance we will investigate the possibility of seeking compensation from, making an insurance claim against, or requiring that the remedial works are done by the original developer/contractor. Where the building is eligible, we will make an application to the Government’s Building Safety Fund.

    Please note that the Building Safety Fund is only available to cover the cost of cladding replacement and insulation, so does not cover any other safety issues that may be identified as a result of inspections.

    Private and social rented tenants will not be asked to contribute to remedial costs.
  • Will the developer of my building be liable for the cost of any works required?
    Unfortunately, it will not be possible to determine liability for the cost of works until the inspection of your building is carried out.
  • The government’s Building Safety Fund to help prevent costs being passed to leaseholders has an application deadline of 31 December 2020 – will my building be able to benefit from this?
    The Non-ACM Building Safety Fund is open to private and social sector buildings of at least 18 metres in height where the external wall contains combustible cladding or insulation.

    We are currently reviewing our building data and will apply for funding for eligible buildings before the application stage closes on 31 December 2020.

    Leaseholders in eligible buildings may be required to complete a state aid form (which is sometimes needed in situations where financial assistance is provided by the government) as part of the application process. We will be writing to leaseholders who may be able to benefit from this fund in October with further information.
  • If my building has a sinking fund can this be used to cover costs if they are not recoverable by other means?
    Whilst the guidelines around use of most sinking funds do not specify that they can be used for cladding replacement, it is a fund contributed to by residents for major works purposes.

    It will therefore be considered as an option on a case by case basis, although only if all other avenues have been exhausted and in consultation with residents.
  • I have a fire protection charge as part of my service charge – will this be used to cover remediation costs?
    This charge covers the standard service and maintenance costs for the existing fire protection equipment in your block such as any communal alarms, smoke detectors, automatic vents, dry risers, blankets and extinguishers. It is therefore not possible for this charge to be used to cover any necessary remediation costs.

    This charge will not increase if temporary fire safety arrangements such as waking watch or a detection & alarm system are put in place at your building.
  • Will I be charged if remediation works are required to a building on my estate that I don’t live in?
    Works are scheduled by block, not estate, and therefore residents will not be charged for works required to other blocks on their estate or development. L&Q will explore all opportunities for funding before considering whether or not to reclaim costs for remediation works from leaseholders.
  • Will I be charged for any additional fire safety measures required for my building?
    L&Q will not charge residents for additional fire safety measures such as new detection and alarm systems or Waking Watch, however If we are installing a new detection & alarm system we will need residents to give us access to their homes to do this. This is extremely important for the safety of the whole building.

    For this reason, and only as a last resort, L&Q may take legal action against residents who refuse access for alarm installation.
  • If I do have to contribute towards remediation costs how will you charge me?
    L&Q will explore all opportunities for funding before considering whether or not to reclaim costs for remediation works from leaseholders, however there may be some cases where this is necessary. Although some Government Ministers have said that they expect building owners not to pass costs on to leaseholders, Government has to date not provided sufficient funding to enable social landlords like L&Q to commit to this without raising serious concerns about the impact on the funds needed to maintain all of our homes.

    The government is aware that leaseholder charging may be necessary for this reason, and this is why they have provided the current Building Safety Fund. Unfortunately, it widely expected that this fund is not big enough to cover all the buildings that will require remedial works.

    Like many housing associations L&Q is working with our partners to call on Government to make more funds available for these works. However, if we find that we have to consider charging leaseholders for works we will seek to keep costs as low as possible, and offer a range of flexible and long-term payment options to help you manage this. We will inform impacted homeowners as early as possible if they are to incur costs.

    Please be reassured that the letter confirming your inspection timetable does not constitute a Section 20 notice (the notice we are required to give you before charging for any works to your building).

What is L&Q doing to support leaseholders who cannot move, remortgage or staircase because of building safety issues?

  • What assistance can L&Q provide to shared owners who cannot sell their home because of fire safety issues?
    We want to do everything we can to support leaseholders whose mortgage application or sales process has been disrupted as a result of the approach that lenders are taking.

    Some homeowners paid money to us to cover administration or application fees while trying to sell, staircase or re-mortgage their home. We will issue a refund for these fees to the homeowners we know have been refused a mortgage as a result of the new guidance.

    In addition to this, if you began a sales or remortgaging process which was stopped from progressing by your or your buyer’s lender, we will waive our administration fees should you wish to begin this process again once the necessary certification has been obtained (please note that this offer does not include the resale nomination fee, which we are obliged to charge as a condition of your lease). We will honour this for up to two years after certification is obtained.

    If you believe you’re entitled to a refund and haven’t received one, please contact our Homeownership team by calling 0300 456 9998.

    Finally, we have amended our sub-letting policy to allow this in properties where it has not been possible for residents to sell as a result of the approach that lenders are taking. Anyone interested in subletting their home as they wish to move, but are unable to do so, can contact our Subletting team at subletting@lqgroup.org.uk.
  • Will L&Q consider buying back my home if I cannot sell it because of fire safety issues?
    Owing to the volume of properties affected by this issue we regret that L&Q is not able to buy back homes unless there are extreme circumstances, such as buildings where residents must move out while works are carried out and this will take 12 months or more to complete.
  • What is L&Q doing to try and influence mortgage lenders to lend on buildings affected by safety issues?
    Our technical team are in regular contact with the government and are helping to inform their conversations with lenders.

    In addition to this, we are joining with other bodies in the housing sector to call on government to further increase capacity for inspections and remedial works, and to consider how it can further support people to move home safely and confidently.
  • I am very worried about how building safety issues will affect me – what support is available?
    We know that this issue is having a life changing impact on some of our residents, and that national research shows that many people affected by this are understandably suffering from stress. We are extremely sorry to those residents that are experiencing this and want to do everything we can to support you.

    Mental health awareness training is compulsory for managers at L&Q. In addition to this our customer service teams and property managers are trained to support you if you are feeling stressed by signposting you to services that can help – please talk to us if you are struggling.

    There are also lots of organisations that can support you to maintain good mental health: The NHS provides general advice and recommends a variety of apps to help mental health – they have assessed these against a range of NHS standards and most are free. Mind and the Samaritans also have useful advice to help you deal with stress.
  • How will L&Q keep in touch with me about building safety issues?
    We will write to residents with a specific date for their inspection shortly before this is scheduled to take place.

    We will keep residents up to date with the progress of the inspection and will supply you with a copy of the inspection report, including any recommendations for remedial works once this is available.

    If works are required your Property Manager will provide you with regular updates to let you know when these will take place, and how they are progressing.

    You will always find the latest information about L&Q’s building safety programme, including updates about the building safety guidelines on our fire safety pages.

Additional information for tenants trying to buy their homes through the right to buy or right to acquire schemes

  • Will building safety issues affect my ability to buy my home using the Right to Buy / Right to Acquire scheme?
    In 2019, mortgage lenders and valuers began asking people who applied for mortgages on properties in some apartment blocks, to provide independent certification that the building meets the requirements of the latest guidelines before they would lend on it. This has created a national issue with many residents finding that they cannot get mortgages for their property until this work is done.

    Unfortunately, it is very likely that you would need to provide this certification (an EWS1 form) to a lender before you could buy your home through the Right to Acquire or Right to Buy schemes. This means that it may not be possible for you to buy your home at this time, however if this is something you are considering you should contact your chosen mortgage provider for more information about their approach.

    We acknowledge that this has had a life-changing impact on many of our resident’s lives and we apologise for this. We will be doing everything we can to support residents who have had their plans to buy their home disrupted both through delivering our building safety programme as quickly as we can, and by working with our partners to lobby Government to enable people to move safely and with confidence.
  • I am trying to buy my home through the Right to Acquire or Right to Buy scheme. My building is under 18 metres at tall, but my lender is asking for an EWS1 form, what should I do?
    If a mortgage lender is asking for an EWS1 form for a building under 18 metres in height they must let you know why, and specify exactly what their concern is (for example: ‘We think that you may have combustible cladding on your balcony’).

    If they have provided this detail, please contact your Property Manager for information about the next steps. If they haven’t you should query this with them in the first instance.

    We suggest you do this by sending them the following in your response:

    Based on the guidance provided by RICS on their website (https://www.rics.org/uk/news-insight/latest-news/fire-safety/cladding-qa) not every building will require an EWS1 form – only those with some form of combustible material, making them unsafe, or, for example, combustible material on balconies. For buildings such as mine which are below the 18 metre threshold there must be a ‘specific concern’ for an EWS1 to be required.

    This guidance also goes on to state that lenders should “should always have a rationale to justify the request for the EWS1. Your request does not include a clear rationale.

    Please can you provide this or confirm that you will not require this form to be provided.

How are mortgage lenders approaching the new building safety guidelines?

  • Are there any mortgage lenders who will lend on affected properties without an EWS1 form?
    In our experience mortgage lenders are dealing with buildings on a case by case basis. We are encouraging residents to contact their lender, or to encourage their buyer to speak to their lender, for advice in the first instance.
  • My building is less than 18 metres high. Why might I be affected by lending issues?
    Unfortunately, some mortgage lenders may also deny mortgages to people who live in purpose-built blocks of flats, regardless of the height of the building.

    If a mortgage lender is asking for an EWS1 form for a building under 18 metres in height they must let you know why, and specify exactly what their concern is (for example: ‘We think that you may have combustible cladding on your balcony’). If they have provided this detail, please contact your Property Manager for information about the next steps. If they haven’t you should query this with them in the first instance.

    We suggest you do this by sending them the following in your response:

    Based on the guidance provided by RICS on their website (https://www.rics.org/uk/news-insight/latest-news/fire-safety/cladding-qa) not every building will require an EWS1 form – only those with some form of combustible material, making them unsafe, or, for example, combustible material on balconies. For buildings such as mine which are below the 18 metre threshold there must be a ‘specific concern’ for an EWS1 to be required.

    This guidance also goes on to state that lenders should “should always have a rationale to justify the request for the EWS1”. Your request does not include a clear rationale.

    Please can you provide this or confirm that you will not require this form to be provided.

Other fire safety questions

  • How safe are my electrical goods?
    If your electrical appliances display the EU’s ‘CE’ mark, they are considered to be safe.

    Please be aware that the Chinese Export mark is very similar.

    If you have doubts about any of your appliances, please contact the manufacturer to find out more. Their website will also let you know if they've recalled any of their products. In general, we recommend that you turn off any appliance immediately if it begins to make a different noise, runs differently or gives off a burning smell.

    You should also inspect the appliance, lead and plug for any damage. If you cannot see an issue, please contact a technician to repair the appliance or dispose of it safely.

    If you are disposing of an electrical item, please remember to cut off the plug and lead once disconnected from the mains – this will help prevent someone from reusing it.
  • Why has our inspection not been done sooner?
    We have not yet been able to inspect all of our tall buildings owing firstly to the volume of these, but also because of a need to ensure that we are responding to the correct advice. The government has made numerous changes to their building safety guidelines since they were first published, most recently in April 2020.

    L&Q have already completed fire safety works on 18 of our blocks which had ACM cladding (the type used in Grenfell), and are undertaking inspections and carrying out remedial works to several other buildings where we have identified issues with safety since the new guidance was released.
  • Why are there no fire extinguishers in my block?
    The fire brigade do not want you fighting a potentially dangerous fire yourself – so that's why there are no fire extinguishers in communal areas.

    If you discover a fire in your property, the best thing to do is leave the building immediately and call the emergency services on 999.
  • What are L&Q doing about fire risk following the Grenfell tragedy?
    Your safety is our top concern – that is why we carry out fire risk assessments in all our buildings with communal areas, stairwells and corridors.

    We also assess supported housing schemes and blocks over six storeys high once a year. Since the Grenfell tragedy, we very quickly surveyed the cladding on all our tower blocks that are over 18 metres tall or higher – roughly equal to six storeys or higher, to identify aluminium composite material (ACM).

    We'll consider all possible methods of mitigating fire risk.

    Cost will not, and never has been, a barrier to providing the most appropriate solution.
  • Who will make sure my building complies with fire regulations?
    Fire safety legislation requires our team of Fire Risk Assessors to carry out regular fire risk assessments.

    We make sure that fire equipment is not damaged and that there are no fire risks in the communal areas.

    We do this regularly to make sure our residents are safe.

    We are also working with the fire authorities and local councils to make sure all fire safety requirements are met and kept up-to-date.
  • What type of cladding is provided on my building?
    The vast majority of cladding on our tower blocks is not made from aluminium composite material (ACM).

    Where we have identified ACM cladding on our buildings that are over 18 metres tall or higher – roughly equal to six storeys or higher, we've contacted the residents in each of these blocks – along with the fire brigade.
  • Are L&Q removing ACM cladding?
    We are replacing all aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding that does not meet the new government safety recommendations introduced since the Grenfell tragedy.

    These recommendations have been changed multiple times since then and we’re planning our approach on how these can be met.

    We will continue to review our fire safety procedures regularly with the fire brigade.
  • Why does my building not have sprinklers?
    If your building was built before April 2007, fire regulations do not state that a sprinkler systems needs to be installed.

    Blocks of flats built since April 2007 must have sprinkler systems if the building is 30 metres or taller – this is roughly equal to ten storeys or higher.
  • Why are you replacing waking watch with a fire detection and alarm system?
    A waking watch consists of regular patrols of a building, throughout the day or night to ensure the safety of residents.

    In future, instead of putting a waking watch in place L&Q will install a new communal fire detection and alarm system instead.

    This is more effective than waking watch because the system is able to detect the early warning signs of a fire anywhere in the building much earlier than a physical patrol.
  • What is the likelihood of my building needing work?
    Given the extent of the new guidance, and the fact this was not in place when the blocks were built, the likelihood of most buildings requiring some degree of remedial work is, unfortunately, high.

    We will inform residents of any remedial work needed on completion of the Building Safety Programme inspection.