City commuters lives may be at risk nearly four years on from the Grenfell disaster after an official dossier uncovered a major housing association failing to carry out key remedial works.
Official documents seen by City A.M. reveal that PA Housing Association in Walton-on-Thames, Surrey, a commuter hotbed for brokers, bankers and consultants, has so far failed to carry out the required remedial work to balconies at its In View building, a four-story block of 38 flats down Mayfield Road, home to about 100 people.
The report on the flat, which was carried out in February, stated that the timber side screens on the balconies present a potential risk of a fire spreading across the entire block, which is just a stones throw away from Walton-on-Thames train station.
Despite the government passing a Fire Safety Bill last 19 March 2020, designed to emphasise that under the Fire Safety Order, the owners have so far not acted, potentially putting home owners lives in danger.
After a conversation with a distressed resident, City A.M. can also reveal that PA Housing’s failure to act, so far, has led to flat sales on the brink of collapse.
A key part of mortgage bureaucracy post-Grenfell, lenders require official documentation that indicates whether a building requires remedial works relating to safety.
The Mayfield Rood residents document, called an EWS1 form, marks the building at the lowest possible A rating, namely A3.
“Launched pre-Covid in December 2019, the EWS1 process was supposed to be a way of unlocking the flat sale market,” said Tim Focas, a concerned In View resident.
“Since then thousands of leaseholders have been locked up in their homes unable to secure the checks and forms, due to high demand and a lack of qualified professionals able to carry them out. In some cases, leaseholders have been told they could have to wait up to a decade for an EWS1 check,” he told City A.M. today.
In response to questions by this paper on why the works have yet to be carried out, Charles Ellis, assistant director of asset management and compliancy at PA Housing said: “The safety of our residents is our number one priority at PA Housing. It is important to note that In View Court does not have cladding – it is built predominantly from non-combustible brickwork and cement-rendered concrete blockwork.
“We have begun the process of appointing a remedial works firm and we aim to start work to replace the external timber later this year, around October, subject to supplier availability. We will keep In View Court residents updated on progress,” Ellis added.
Buyers may not get a mortgage
Other residents are at risk of buyers potentially failing to get a mortgage approved due to the form, Focas added.
Earlier this month, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors’ (RICS) issued new, narrower guidance aimed at severely reducing the number of buildings that require the form.
Despite this guidance not being statutory, the Grenfell fallout has had an impact on many lenders.
According to an article by Inside Housing last month, Nationwide and Lloyds have indicated that they could still require EWS1 forms on certain exempt buildings, while HSBC said that it has yet to make a decision but that it is reviewing its policy.
Ellis went onto say: “Some mortgage lenders are lending on properties in blocks where the fire risk is low or works will be carried out within 12 months and is unrelated to cladding. One such sale has recently gone through at In View Court on this basis.”
Walton-on-Thames is the constituency of foreign secretary Dominic Raab. When approached by City A.M., his office did not respond when asked for a comment.