Responding to changing legislation
Following the tragic events at Grenfell Tower in 2017, new Government guidance was introduced around fire safety in residential buildings. At FirstPort, our principle priority is to ensure the safety of our residents and we have been supportive of these steps.
One consequence of changes in the regulatory environment has been that mortgage lenders have begun asking for more detailed technical information in relation to the construction of the building, particularly about the external facades of buildings that are 18 meters and over.
Typically, this relates to the materials used and how the façade was put together as well as the certification of the methods taken and the procedures that were followed in construction. Importantly, these requirements are being applied not only to buildings constructed with aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding found at Grenfell Tower – which is now banned – but to all properties over 18 metres in height.
Accessing technical information on your building
Where FirstPort has access to this technical information, we are able to provide it to residents to pass to their mortgage providers.
However, as a property manager – not the building owner or construction firm – we do not always have access to this information to the level required by some lenders. The lack of such available, detailed information about these buildings is a national issue and not just related to buildings managed by FirstPort. The checks and tests which lenders are beginning to ask for are what façade material manufacturers and façade builders might have voluntarily commissioned in the past. It is not something that a property manager would typically do.
We’re aware that some leaseholders in FirstPort-managed developments are facing difficulties in securing or renewing mortgages because detailed information is not available and are sorry to hear this is impacting our customers. We are also aware that potential buyers are facing difficulties in securing mortgages too.
In some cases, we will be able to access the technical information from developers required by lenders. Providing that the building has been constructed as planned, this should provide lenders with the information they require. However, there will be many cases where the required information is not immediately available or very hard to get hold of. This is a situation that is not unique to FirstPort. In the absence of information from developers it can lead to a long and complex process to properly understand the make-up and design of the external façade of a building.
Mortgage Lenders and Statement of Compliance
Increasingly, mortgage lenders are seeking confirmation that buildings meet all of the requirements of recent advice notes issued by the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) regarding fire safety of buildings 18m and over. There is a particular focus on Advice Note 14 (AN14) although some lenders have a broader requirement. For example, the production of a written statement to confirm that the property meets the requirements of current guidance from MHCLG. This statement must be prepared by a suitably qualified independent professional advisor who is a member of one of the professional bodies listed by the MHCLG. In order to get such a written statement there needs to be the right level of information available about the original construction in the first place so that the suitably qualified person is able to prepare a statement. This will not always be the case as previously described. Lenders will not accept Fire Risk Assessments or survey reports in place of this, it must be a written statement of compliance produced by a member of the professional bodies listed below:
- Architects Registration Board (ARB)
- Association of Consultant Approved Inspectors (ACAI)
- Association for Project Management (APM)
- Association for Project Safety (APS)
- Chartered Association of Building Engineers (CABE)
- Chartered Institute of Architectural Technologists (CIAT)
- Chartered Institute of Building (CIOB)
- Chartered Institute of Ecology and Environmental Management (CIEEM)
- Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE)
- Chartered Institution of Water and Environmental Management (CIWEM)
- Construction Industry Council Approver Inspectors Register (CICAIR)
- Institute of Clerks of Works and Construction Inspectorate (ICWCI)
- Institute of Environmental Management & Assessment (IEMA)
- Institution of Civil Engineers (ICE)
- Institution of Fire Engineers (IFE)
- Institution of Structural Engineers (IStructE)
- Local Authority Building Control (LABC)
- Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)
- Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS)
- Royal Town Planning Institute (RTPI)
- Society of Façade Engineers (SFE)
Common questions and answers
Q: If the mortgage lender refuses an application, does this mean the building is unsafe?
A: A refusal to lender does not mean that the building is not safe for occupation, only that there are queries over the nature of its construction. Where these queries exist in FirstPort managed properties, we are working with building owners and developers to better understand the make-up of the building façade. .
Q: What is a BR135 classification?
A: Some mortgage lenders are requesting documentation from customers to prove that building facades meet the BR135 classification. This is a standard that demonstrates that an external cladding system was tested when it was set alight and met certain combustibility standards.
Q: Do all buildings have BR135 test data available?
A: No. Only a limited number of cladding systems have been tested in combination e.g. cladding type with insulation type. Many have not.
Q: Whose responsibility is it to produce a written statement that may be required to the building to satisfy mortgage lenders?
A: For privately owned buildings, the requirement to pay for further investigations relating to the external façade will depend on your lease.