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Social Housing Speed Read – Government advice note on building safety

In January the Government published its advice note: "Building safety advice for building owners, including fire doors". This advice note was produced by the Independent Expert Advisory Panel, in connection with the Government's Building Safety Programme. The note consolidates, and updates, existing advice that was previously contained in advice notes 1 to 22.

We set out some key points of the advice note below.

For the purposes of the advice note, a “building owner” is defined as:

“the owner of the building or the person, group, company or other entity on whom duties are imposed or enforcement action could be taken under the following legislation:

  • the Housing Act 2004 in relation to certain hazards; or
  • the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 to ensure the safety of occupants of a building from fire.”

The term “residential building” includes all buildings which have a room for residential purposes (e.g. hospitals), regardless of the building’s height.

The note predominately addresses the issue of fire safety in multi-storey, multi-occupied residential buildings and stresses that building owners should follow the advice “as soon as possible”. The Expert Panel is of the opinion that building owners should not await further advice or information before acting. The Government has announced its intention to introduce a Fire Safety Bill but the Panel advises building owners to act pre-emptively.

The Expert Panel strongly advises that building owners should identify the risks posed by any external wall systems and fire doors, regardless of the building’s height.

In particular, the note stresses that the Expert Panel are of the opinion that “ACM cladding (and other metal composite material cladding) with an unmodified polyethylene filler (category 3) presents a significant fire hazard on residential buildings at any height with any form of insulation.”

As a result, the advice note suggests that assessments and inspections should be carried out to ensure that building owners understand the construction of all external wall systems. Building owners are advised to consult their records, to carry out up to date fire risk assessments and to seek expert advice.

If any risks are identified by these assessments, building owners are advised to carry out remedial works urgently. The advice note also sets out the recommended short-term interim measures that building owners should implement, until any remedial action has been completed.

Two and a half years since the tragedy of the Grenfell fire and it is noted that Fire Services are even now taking new enforcement measures against building owners of residential properties.  It is clear that such action, and the above advice is only going to increase the already significant costs which social housing providers are facing, in relation to building safety, and the need to carry out invasive investigation which is stepping up a level from previous requirements. It is a necessity that organisations allocate resources effectively and plan accordingly.

A copy of the advice note can be found here.

If you have any questions on the above and how it will affect social housing providers, or any other questions as a social housing provider, please do not hesitate to contact John Murray or a member of our expert Social Housing Team.


Please note that this briefing is designed to be informative, not advisory and represents our understanding of English law and practice as at the date indicated. We would always recommend that you should seek specific guidance on any particular legal issue.

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