The Building Safety Fund (“the BSF”) was first announced in March 2020 by the then Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to assist with funding the cost of removing and replacing unsafe non-ACM cladding on high-rise residential buildings. At that time, monies had already been made available to cover the cost of remediating high-rise buildings installed with ACM cladding, deemed to pose the greatest risk.
The Government has now reopened the BSF for new applications together with issuing guidance for those applications. This contains detailed eligibility criteria for making an application. Broadly, private and social sector buildings containing a least one qualifying residential leaseholder which are 18 metres or above and have cladding where fire risks have been identified fall within scope. There are particular technical criteria that a building must have a Fire Risk Appraisal of External Wall construction following the British Standards Institute methodology in PAS 9980:2022.
Landlords and leaseholders will no doubt be considering making new applications where a building is eligible and no application has previously been made. Landlords will in the future have specific duties under the Building Safety Act (“the BSA”) to consider whether any grants are payable in respect of remediation works so will want to consider the application guidance, in appropriate situations.
The BSA will make changes to landlord and tenant legislation to require landlords carrying out certain remediation works (to be defined in Regulations) to do the following:
- Take reasonable steps to ascertain whether any grant is payable in respect of the remediation works and if so, to obtain the grant;
- Take reasonable steps to consider whether any contribution to remediation works is due from a third party and if so, obtain the monies from the third party; and
- Take prescribed steps relating to any other prescribed kind of funding. Further details of what falls within scope will be contained in secondary legislation (not yet available).
Those steps can be taken before or after remediation works are carried out. However, if they are not taken, a leaseholder can make an application for an order that all or part of remediation costs incurred by a landlord are not reasonable and not payable by a leaseholder through a service charge.
These requirements are not yet in force but landlords will, no doubt, be considering their duties and responsibilities under the BSA and seeking professional advice. It will therefore be important for landlords of certain buildings to take note of the reopening of the BSF and familiarise themselves with the application guidance. The closure date for new applications has not been announced but the Government has stated that the date will be published with “reasonable notice”. We are monitoring developments on our Building and Fire Safety Hub.
Please do not hesitate to contact Richard Flenley, Laura Bushaway or your usual Charles Russell Speechlys contact if you have any queries.