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Housing Updates June 2021

The housing industry has undergone major regulation changes and new developments in the first half of 2021. Here are the main issues from the first half of the year that you should be aware of:

Fire Safety Bill becomes Fire Safety Act 2021

In March 2020, the new Fire Safety Bill was introduced by the Home Office to ensure fire safety for every resident living in England and Wales. This Bill replaces the Fire Safety Order 2005. It has been designed to ‘ensure that people feel safe in their homes and a tragedy like the Grenfell Tower fire never happens again’.

The House of Lords made many attempts to make amends to the Fire Safety Bill – one significant clause being the prohibition of remediation costs, such as those for fire doors, dangerous cladding and insulation systems, being passed on to the residents. The amendments proposed were rejected five times by the House of Commons, but were finally passed through the parliamentary process. On April 29, 2021, the bill received Royal Assent and became an Act of Parliament - The Fire Safety Act 2021.

Learn more about The Fire Safety Act 2021 here.

Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII) Issue Being Addressed

Another serious issue faced by the industry was the lack of an affordable and reliable Professional Indemnity Insurance (PII). This problem has created real world issues not only for consumers, but also for professionals, for example, chartered surveyors, who work in the built environment and are potentially exposed to fire-safety-related insurance claims.

In order to find a solution for this major issue, RICS has been working alongside the Government and the insurance industry to create a PII backed by the Government. The Government’s firm commitment will without doubt lead to a rise in the number of professionals able to complete external wall assessments and ensure smoother functioning in the future.

This will also mean that the chartered surveying professionals currently being trained to conduct an external wall assessment, in accordance with the EWS1 form, through the EWS assessment training programme, will be able to gain PII. This news has been welcomed by leaseholders and homebuyers as they have been struggling to find a qualified professional to carry out their external wall system assessments due to the shortage in the market.

RICS launches External Wall Systems Assessment Training Programme

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) launched their External Wall Systems Assessment Training Programme in order to ensure a rise in the numbers of qualified professionals to carry out the EWS assessments. With the increase in demand for the EWS1 form, homeowners and leaseholders were finding it difficult to track down the right professional to carry out the assessment, leading to major delays in the industry. This training programme hopes to solve this shortage in the industry and ensure smooth functioning in the future.

The EWS Assessment Training Programme is a government-funded programme developed by RICS over the last four years. Over 700 professionals have already enrolled for the training. During the training programme participants will learn about the scope of work available through contracts and terms of engagement, legal frameworks and key standards affecting fire safety and legal liability.

The programme will also provide training in:

-the interpretation of effective information required for inspections from stakeholders;

-the assessment of EWS, including the materials, construction and their fire safety performance;

-the fire risks presented by various grades of external wall materials and systems;

-the steps in the inspection process and the intrusive inspection process, and

-how to create a comprehensive report, after the inspection, with key recommendations.