‘Stuck’: Man can’t sell flat near Emirates Stadium because development doesn’t have safety certificate needed post Grenfell Tower disaster
PUBLISHED: 13:40 18 December 2019 | UPDATED: 15:37 19 December 2019
A man living in a distinctive development near the Emirates Stadium says he’s “stuck in the building” and can’t sell his flat because it doesn’t have adequate safety certification.
One of the knock-on effects of new building requirements brought in after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, in which 72 people died, is that there is huge backlog in safety checks.
A neighbour, who asked not to be named, bought his flat in Queensland Road four or five years ago after it was built by Barratt Developments PLC.
Kingspan K15 Kooltherm, which made up about 6.5 per cent of the insulation on Grenfell, was also "used in the external wall construction" at the Queensland Terrace development, according to an email from Barratt seen by the Gazette.
K15 can be combustible and the government has since banned developers from using it on buildings taller than 18 meters.
But it would have been compliant when Queensland Terrace was built.
The man's been trying to sell his flat and recently found a buyer - but mortgage lenders have been refusing to pay out on it because the building doesn't have the required certification.
But it's hoped a new industry-wide valuation process agreed on Monday, December 16 will "unclog" the market.
Speaking earlier this month, the neighbour told the Gazette: "No one can sell their flats. We don't even know if it's safe to live in. It's ridiculous and obviously I have a buyer waiting. I want to move on with my life and move flat, but I can't until these jokers get a government safety certificate."
FirstPort, which manages Queensland Terrace, says the development doesn't have the aluminium composite material (ACM) on it, which was also found on Grenfell and subsequently banned. Asked about K15, FirstPort said its investigating what materials were used and this "process is ongoing".
The company confirmed fire risk assessments are conducted annually.
The government issued stringent new guidelines in December last year, which apply to all buildings over 18 meters tall, regardless of whether they have ACM cladding.
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These guidelines require building owners to provide documentation on the design, installation and management of the structure of external wall systems.
They call on owners to prove external wall systems are "safe" and that fire safety checks have been carried out.
Most mortgage lenders now want confirmation a buildings meets these new requirements - and require written proof from a qualified independent advisor working for a government-recognised firm. Without these certificates, some surveyors have valued properties at £0.
The Gazette understands some 3,000 to 9,000 buildings across the UK are affected by these new guidelines.
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) confirmed the demand for assessments has put strain on the limited number of surveying firms and advisors qualified to do the tests.
But RICS, The Building Societies Association (BSA) and UK Finance agreed a new industry-wide valuation process aimed at speeding things up on December 16.
This is intended to create uniformity and puts the onus on owners to "proactively" get qualified professionals to carry out fire risk assessments. Only one assessment will be needed for each building and this lasts for five years.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick said: "Resident safety is of the utmost priority and building owners should follow expert advice and ensure that any building safety and fire risks are identified and fixed as a matter of urgency.
"I welcome industry's solution to manage valuations and lending on high-rise residential buildings, which will enable people to get on with buying and selling their homes."
BSA policy manager Charlie Blagbrough said: "Ensuring the safety and security of those selling, purchasing and living in high-rise homes remains paramount. However, we expect that this new process will instil confidence to enable surveyors to value, lenders to lend, and ultimately keep the high-rise property market flowing."
A FirstPort spokesperson said: "Following changes in government advice around building safety, we have seen a number of requests for detailed safety certification from mortgage lenders, including at Queensland Terrace.
"This is part of a much larger industry issue. We are currently reviewing the documentation that is available on the building structure at Queensland Terrace. This will help determine whether any technical survey work is required to check the building's adherence to the new guidance.
"We appreciate that the uncertainty associated with this complex industry issue is impacting some of our customers. We are updating them regularly as this work progresses to explain the steps being taken."
Barratt Developments PLC declined to comment.
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