As general concerns around properties built with unsafe cladding rise, it’s important to make yourself aware of the potential risks. In this post, we’ll explain everything you need to know so you can determine if your commercial or residential property is safe.
Unfortunately for building owners, there has been a significant increase in disputes over cladding with their leasehold tenants.
Since the tragic west London Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, an increasing number of residents and workers are concerned about building safety regulations. Unsafe ACM cladding was found to be the cause of the fire that rapidly spread due to its combustible material.
So, how do you know if your commercial or residential property is safe to live or work in? In this article, we’re going to discuss everything you need to know about unsafe cladding. Let’s take a closer look…
What Is Cladding?
Cladding is a material that is used on the outside of buildings to improve appearance and insulation. It is also used to make buildings more energy-efficient and weather-resistant, with cladding being primarily used for tower block buildings. Cladding sits on top of another layer of material, such as concrete, and acts as a disguise.
Common materials used for cladding include:
What Type of Cladding Is Considered Unsafe?
Not all types of cladding are considered dangerous, but there are a few which are now considered problematic and are advised against using on buildings.
In the Grenfell Tower tragedy investigation, it was uncovered that the cladding used to build the tower was a highly combustible material known as aluminium composite material (ACM).
Other types of cladding that have now been considered unsafe due to being combustible materials include:
- High-pressure laminate (HPL) – which use compressed paper or wood
- Metal composite materials – which use zinc, copper, or steel
In the UK, these types of cladding are now considered under the ‘combustible cladding ban’, and in 2018, the ban was formally added to building regulations, disallowing the use on buildings that stand taller than 18 metres.
Can I Claim for Working in an Unsafe Environment?
An employer is required to do risk assessments to identify any hazards that could impact the wellbeing and safety of their employees. If an employer uncovers any risks, such as unsafe cladding and a potential fire hazard, they must make their employees aware, and take steps to mitigate the danger.
Unsafe environments could pose problems to you mentally and financially, especially if you are avoiding work due to anxiety over fears that a problem might occur whilst you are there. Make sure your employer is taking the appropriate steps to mitigate the danger. If they’re not, employees are eligible to claim against their employer.
How Can I Check If My Home Has Unsafe Cladding?
The fire at Grenfell Tower prompted a number of UK trade bodies, build societies and surveyors to launch the External Fire Review (EWS1) in 2019. An EWS1 requires a specialist surveyor to undertake fire safety checks on a building, including checking how the cladding is attached. Occasionally this will require a sample to be taken from the building to be tested before deciding upon the outcome.
The EWS1 certificate was mainly aimed at buildings with cladding that stands taller than 18 metres; however, many mortgage lenders are requiring the certificate for buildings with cladding above 11 metres.
Buildings that have not been checked and approved for an EWS1 certificate are usually considered unsafe and unsellable. Therefore, if your building stands taller than 11 metres, it is recommended to request an EWS1 process as soon as possible, especially if you are looking to sell or your leasehold tenants are.
It is the building owner’s responsibility to arrange the process, not the leaseholders. But if you are a leaseholder, you have the right to ask them to start the process. If they refuse, you can contact your local council and fire and rescue service.
What Are the UK Government Doing About Unsafe Cladding?
Since the tragedy, buildings across the UK have been subjected to tests to check the safety of the cladding. In total, there were 462 high-rise buildings with dangerous cladding identified, 200 of which have since had the cladding removed.
Meanwhile, the government has announced that it is taking action against buildings that have unsafe cladding and have set aside £3.5 billion for a five-point plan.
If the unsafe cladding is found on a building that is over 18 metres tall, the UK government will fully fund the cost to replace it. For buildings between 11 and 18 metres tall, the government are offering a cladding removal scheme which should cost homeowners no more than £50 a month.
What Can I Do if the Cladding on My Property Is Unsafe?
If your EWS1 survey comes back alerting you that the cladding on the building is unsafe and a fire hazard, you could be faced with several problems. Unfortunately, any block below 11 metres is not considered under the government’s scheme and may cause the owners a considerable amount of money.
If there are concerns over the property and its safety, it would be wise to resolve the issue immediately. It’s advised to try to fund the cost of the replacement cladding yourself. Doing nothing can pose serious risks and you could potentially be faced with a claim if a fire does occur.
Will Unsafe Cladding Affect the Sale of a Residential or Commercial Property?
Cladding on a property can massively affect the selling and purchasing of a property, with many homeowners already struggling to sell.
Nowadays, most mortgage lenders are requiring that an EWS1 certificate is shown to confirm that a building is safe. Without proof of the certificate, the majority of lenders will reject the mortgage due to classing the property as a potential fire hazard.
Truthfully speaking, one of the only alternatives to selling a home or commercial building with unsafe cladding without an EWS1 certificate is to find an interested cash buyer. Unfortunately, this does mean that you’ll likely receive a lot less for the property than you had initially hoped for.
Do You Know if the Cladding on Your Property is Safe?
If you’re lucky enough to have an EWS1 certificate confirming that the cladding on your property isn’t high-risk, then you shouldn’t have any problem with selling or being concerned about fire hazards. However, if you are unsure, then it’s worth starting to research the EWS1 process. Best of luck!
Please be advised that this article is for general informational purposes only, and should not be used as a substitute for advice from a trained legal professional. Be sure to consult a lawyer/solicitor if you’re seeking advice on the law. We are not liable for risks or issues associated with using or acting upon the information on this site.