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Social Housing Speed Read – Government issues further guidance and direction on unsafe cladding removal

Following on from last week's speed read when we covered the Hackitt Review and the new fund launched by the Government to remove and replace unsafe cladding, we now consider the Government's further guidance and correspondence on the issue.

Building Safety Programme: Secretary of State direction to local housing authorities

On 17 May 2018, the Secretary of State, James Brokenshire MP, issued a direction under section 3(3) of the Housing Act 2004 to all local housing authorities in England to support the identification of high-rise buildings with potentially unsafe cladding.

In his letter, the Secretary of State has now deemed it necessary and urgent to “ensure that all high-rise residential buildings with potentially unsafe cladding are quickly identified and interim measures are in place”.  Against this backdrop, all local housing authorities are being directed to carry out their duty to review housing conditions in their area as follows:

  • to take particular regard, when reviewing housing conditions in their area, to the Department’s consolidated advice and the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government’s (“MHCLG”) Independent Expert Advisory Panel’s view that Aluminium Composite Material (“ACM”) with an unmodified polyethylene filler (category 3 in screening tests) with any type of insulation presents a significant fire hazard on buildings over 18m;
  • to take all appropriate steps to identify and notify the MHCLG of all high-rise residential buildings over 18m in their area with a view to identifying any action they should take in accordance with their duties under the Act, including carrying out inspections and assessments of hazards; and
  • to carry out a review to consider any fire safety hazards arising out of potentially unsafe ACM cladding on high-rise residential buildings in their area.

In issuing the direction, the Secretary of State reiterates that, pursuant to their duties imposed by the Housing Act 2004, local authorities and their officers must:

  • comply with any directions (section 3(3)(a));
  • keep such records (and supply them) as the Secretary of State may specify (section 3(3)(b));
  • have due regard to any guidance issued by the Secretary of State of Housing, Communities and Local Government about exercising their functions under the Housing Act 2004 (section 9(2)); and
  • to take all necessary enforcement action where appropriate.

The full direction can be found here.

Advice note for building owners on assurance and replacing of flat entrance fire doors

The MHCLG has also published an advice note for the attention of building owners in relation to fire safety on the assurance of performance of fire doors and the replacement of flat entrance fire doors where their fire and smoke resistance performance is not up to standard.

The note was developed by MHCLG’s Independent Expert Advisory Panel and advises that landlords or building owners should replace flat entrance doorsets if they suspect they do not meet the fire or smoke resistance performance in the Building Regulations guidance.

The advice note is primarily concerned with fire safety, and requires that doorsets are designed to meet all of the relevant requirements as set out in the MHCLG’s approved document and builds on previous guidance issued such as the Local Government Association guidance ‘Fire Safety in purpose built blocks of flats’ and the British Standard ‘code of practice for fire door assemblies.

The note, which was developed to support those who want to replace their fire doors or review their performance, 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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