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January 2021 Fire Safety Updates

21st January 2021

Hardly a week had passed since our round-up on fire and building safety measures back in December (see here), before the Government made yet further announcements to provide further support for residential leaseholders faced with the costs of dealing with unsafe cladding systems.

Extension to deadline for applications to the Building Safety Fund

Those dealing with applications to the Government’s Building Safety Fund to claim the costs for remediation of unsafe (non-ACM) cladding will have welcomed the news from the MHCLG on 17 December 2020 that the deadline for applications would be extended by 6 months, from 31 December 2020 to 30 June 2021.

Successful applicants now have until 30 September 2021 for works to start, meaning that a works contract must have been entered into, and the main contractor must have taken possession of the site and started to deliver the contract, by this date.

More information about the application process can be found here.

New Waking Watch Relief Fund

In addition to the £1bn Building Safety Fund made available for eligible buildings with unsafe non-ACM cladding, the Government also announced on 17 December 2020 a new £30m Waking Watch Relief Fund, to help support residential leaseholders in high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding by bringing an end to excessive waking watch costs.

The new fund, which is due to open later this month, has been set up following advice from the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC) that building owners should move to install common fire alarm systems as quickly as possible to reduce or remove dependence on waking watches. The fund will cover the upfront capital costs of alarm systems installed on or after 17 December 2020. The common fire alarm system should generally be designed in accordance with the recommendations of BS 5839-1 for a Category L5 system, which is referred to in the NFCC’s revised guidance on simultaneous evacuation.

Many buildings will have already installed fire alarm systems as part of interim mitigation measures, given the significant cost savings achieved by eliminating the need for waking watch. Figures published by the Government are that leaseholders in such buildings, who on average were paying £137 per month for a waking watch, are expected to collectively save over £3m per month.

To be eligible to claim on the fund, a building must:

• be in the private sector

• be over 18 metres in height

• have an unsafe cladding system

• have a waking watch in place where these costs have been passed on to leaseholders

The Housing Secretary Robert Jenkins said on 17 December 2020 :-

“I’m announcing today a £30m Waking Watch Relief Fund to help relieve the financial pressure on those residents and to ensure they are safe. I’m confident that this will make a real difference to worried leaseholders up and down the country this Christmas.”

More information about the fund can be found here and here.

If you have any queries regarding the above, please contact Faye Didcote on or 01435 897297.


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