After the tragedy at Grenfell a year ago, it fair to say that whilst lots of testing and thought has been put forward into what can be done to avoid this ever happening again, there has been little in terms of detail and very little actual hard evidence or advice to freeholders, property managers and lessees on what should be done right now.
Fire Risk procedures and assessments have been quickly reviewed but as time has gone on it’s been clear that different buildings and locations present different challenges, in term of compliance today and in the future. In times like this property managers turn to experts in their fields for advice. What has become obvious to them is that there are experts and there are EXPERTS. It’s not been unheard of today for a building to have had 2 complete Fire Risk Assessments, yet the results of two different expert firms reports on the same building within a few weeks of each other ended up producing completely different recommendations. The property manager concerned is now faced with 2 conflicting reports, who are they to believe?
The same is true with supplier’s specifications and recommendations for the use of materials, this has become a minefield for just about any property manager or organisation that has buildings effected by the cladding scandal. Is the material suitable , does it meet the correct standard and so on. Property Managers are a talented and knowledgeable bunch but in situations like this there is a limit to how best to advise clients and lessees.
Freeholders whether public, housing associations or private landlords are looking for answers and a year on, there is little concrete advice coming forward about how to remedy the defects and ultimately would should pay to do so.
We will now find that the rights and wrongs, who pays for what and when will find their way into the courts of the land and this unfortunately takes a great deal of time. Time we may not have.
As valuers we have seen valuations reducing affected flat values down to 1/8th of the previous market value. In one example a 3 year old flat previously valued at £407,000 has been revalued in March 2017 at only £50,000. The owner is distraught, cannot move on and her life is on hold whilst plans are made as to how to deal with the building work that now ties her to the property until works are completed.
These works will take time once it’s agreed what work must be done and to what specification, at what costs to whom and in what timeframe. All questions are difficult to answer no one would wish to proceed now only for rules and regulations to change within a short time of works completing. The Hackitt review will in time seek to answer these questions and provide a pathway forward. Until then bear with your property manager they will do there best to help and guide you but patience here appears to be the key.
Chris Baker, Managing Director at McDowalls Surveyors