FAQs about cladding and fire safety remediation costs

This page includes a list of FAQs for residents affected by the government's updated advice notes on building safety.

We’re continuing to vigorously explore all options to recover fire safety remediation costs from third parties involved with the development and construction of external wall systems, along with warranty providers.

We’ve always been clear Optivo will only pass on costs to leaseholders as a last resort, if all other options have been exhausted.

Will you be charging leaseholders for fire safety remedial works?

We’ve always been clear that recharging leaseholders is a last resort. We want to reassure you, wherever possible, we’re continuing to vigorously explore all options to recover fire safety remediation costs from others.
This includes, where applicable, the Developer/Construction Team, the Warranty Provider and Building Safety Fund.

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Why can’t Optivo just pay for the works?

We’ve set aside significant funds to spend on fire safety works over the next five years. We’ll be covering the entire cost for all our rented residents, unless we’re able to recoup some from developers or warranty providers.

Unlike private developers, we’re a not-for-profit organisation. We reinvest our income back into providing services for our 90,000+ residents. To cover all remediation costs would greatly impact our ability to provide these services to our thousands of social housing residents. It’s why we’re taking action to push for government funding.

Our huge investment in fire safety, including working on buildings previously certified as safe, is already having a big impact on other areas of our work.

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Can you not lobby the Government for support?

We’re working hard to push for more government support for leaseholders and housing associations to get through this funding crisis. We’re dedicating large amounts of senior staff time to raising this issue at the highest levels.

We’ll continue to push for the financial support that leaseholders and housing associations need.

To have the biggest influence, we’ve joined with other housing associations to lobby government. We’re an active member of the G15 Building Safety Group, which is engaging with government on funding and proposed legislation. The G15, of which we’re a member, is the group of London’s largest housing associations.
We’re also working with housing associations from across the country in the National Housing Federation (NHF) Building Safety National Group. This group is also pro-actively lobbying government.

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What are you saying to government?

Through the G15 and the NHF we’ve been asking government to:
  • Provide funding for fire safety remediation, so neither leaseholders nor charitable housing associations have to bear the cost
  • Provide greater clarity on fire safety regulations
  • Help tackle the skills shortage in fire safety engineers and other professions which is causing major issues, for example in issuing EWS1 certificates.
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Are you engaging with the national leaseholder campaigns?

We’re an active member of the National Housing Federation, which is meeting regularly with UK Cladding Action and other leaseholder groups on behalf of all housing associations.

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Why are you doing this now?

The Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 uncovered a huge amount of uncertainty around what buildings are safe.
Since the Grenfell tragedy, the Government has set up investigations into materials and practices used in buildings.

It has issued advice notes which sets out the immediate actions that building owners should take to address the risk of fire spread. This includes things like external wall systems, such as cladding, and fire doors.

We have to assess and manage the risk of external fire spread in all our buildings and bring buildings into line with new regulations. The investigations and temporary measures to keep residents safe and remedial works come at a huge cost.

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Will the Government not pay for the removal of unsafe cladding?

Earlier this year, the Government announced additional funding to support the removal of dangerous cladding from tall buildings (18m or over). This is in addition to the existing Building Safety Fund. We’ve only two buildings which qualify for the fund.

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What is the Building Safety Fund?

The Government has set aside £5bn to meet the costs of removing and replacing unsafe non-ACM cladding systems on high-residential buildings (over 18 metres). This only applies to two buildings for us. 

We are actively lobbying the Government and are working with local MPs to make more funding available and ensure leaseholders and housing associations do not have to bear these costs.

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What’s the difference between a Waking Watch, Evacuation Steward and Evacuation Marshal?

Waking Watch:

A Waking Watch is a short-term measure for buildings which are referred to as ‘high risk’. It’s a service where operatives regularly patrol the building within set periods of time.

A Waking Watch would remain in place whilst temporary measures, such as temporary alarms, are installed.
The operatives also manage the evacuation and liaise with the fire service in the event of a fire.

Waking Watch generally only applies to buildings over 18m, though it may be considered necessary for buildings under 18m.

Evacuation Marshal:

Evacuation Marshals provide an ongoing presence in the highest risk buildings (generally only buildings over 18m) following the installation of the interim measures, such as the temporary alarm. They co-ordinate and manage the evacuation of the building and liaise with the fire service in the event of a fire.

Evacuation Steward:

An Evacuation Steward provides evacuation management to a resident who is otherwise unable to self-evacuate. Residents are identified as requiring an Evacuation Steward through a formal person-centred fire risk assessment and personal emergency evacuation plan.

Evacuation Stewards can be required in any building where the evacuation strategy has been changed to self-evacuation and where there is a resident who’s unable to appropriately self-evacuate.

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Who is paying for the Waking Watch and Evacuation Marshals?

Any costs we aren’t able to recover from any other party will, as a last resort, be charged to leaseholders through the service charge.

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Who pays for the Evacuation Steward(s)?

We will look to find a resident alternative accommodation if they're unable to self-evacuate. We may charge the resident for an Evacuation Steward if reasonable offers of alternative accommodation aren't accepted.

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Why do you charge 15% of the costs of the works for managing the works?

We spend a huge amount of time putting into place contractors who are able to deliver value for money, quality services and works. In addition to procuring the contracts, we also have to oversee what the contractor is doing and administer/manage the contract. This results in considerable cost to us which we cover by way of a fee of 15% of the cost of the works. The % fee charge is common for oversight of major works to blocks.
We’ve introduced a cap on the amount we charge via this fee. The cap is £2250 maximum per person.

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I feel like you're profiting out of this situation. Is that the case?

No, this is not true. We’ve set aside significant funds to spend on fire safety works over the next five years.
We’ll be covering the entire cost for all our rented residents, unless we’re able to recoup some from developers or warranty providers. Unlike private developers, we’re a not-for-profit organisation. As a not-for-profit organisation we reinvest our income back into providing services for our 90,000+ residents.

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Is there a £50pm cap on fire safety works?

The government originally indicated no leaseholder living in a block between 11m and 18m would have to pay more than £50 per month, under a loan arrangement they would introduce.

However, Housing Secretary Michael Gove announced on 9 November 2021 he was 'pausing' plans for the loans.

We’re awaiting further clarity from the government and will share this information with leaseholders as soon as we have it.

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Have you got anybody in place to carry out the works? And when will it start?

We've recently announced a partnership with ENGIE - a leading energy, services and regeneration specialist - to deliver the fire remediation work. We will keep you updated around what this means in terms of timescales for work on your building.

We’re sorry we’re not able to give specific dates at this stage, but we’re committed to sharing any information as soon as it becomes available.

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How long will works take on my building?

We’re keen to complete the fire safety works as quickly as possible. We ask you to be alert to potential fire risks around your home. We know this is a difficult situation and we’re doing all we can to find a solution. We will continue to keep you regularly updated.

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Are you planning to freeze our rent and service charge while you undertake the works?

We will not be freezing your rent or service charge. Where any demands for payment cause financial hardship we’ll work with you to agree flexible payment options to support you. At this stage, we’re continuing to do all we can to recover fire remediation costs from others. We will keep you updated on how this is progressing. We’ve always been clear we will only pass on costs to leaseholders after exhausting all options.

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What if I’m not able to pay for the cost of works?

We understand the timing of this is far from ideal given the ongoing coronavirus pandemic and related financial concerns you may already have. We’re very sorry to add to this, however we’ve a legal obligation to meet fire safety regulations and government advice on cladding safety.

Where any demands for payment cause financial hardship we’ll work with you to agree flexible payment options to support you.

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I only own 25% of my flat, will I only have to pay 25% of the costs of the work attributable to my home?

Your lease will set out how much you may have to contribute towards the cost of works. It’s not related to the equity interest you hold in the home. You should've been provided with a copy of your lease when you bought your home. If not, your solicitor may be able to provide you with a copy.

Alternatively, you may find it's quicker and cheaper to buy a copy via the Land Registry: https://www.gov.uk/government/organisations/land-registry

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Why won’t you let me see certain documents? Surely I’m entitled to know about my building?

We want to be as open and transparent as we can be with you. We understand why it might be frustrating not being able to see every document. However, one of the reasons we’re unable to share certain, sensitive, documents at this stage is they could form part of a legal case for recovering costs from others.

If we disclose this information the chances of a successful claim may be lost or significantly damaged.
We’ve always been clear Optivo will only pass on costs to leaseholders as a last resort, if all other options have been exhausted.

These reports are also technical and complex and intended for suitably qualified experts. They will consider them in addition to other relevant information for the building and occupants. However, there are occasions where we can provide a summary which we’re happy to share with leaseholders.

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What is an EWS1 form?

Mortgage lenders are increasingly querying the make-up of external walls on buildings. These queries cover all building types and not just those with cladded materials on the exterior. This follows the Grenfell Tower fire and the Government releasing a number of building safety advice notes.

EWS stands for External Wall System. Many mortgage providers are currently asking for additional information about a building’s external wall system in an EWS1 form before they are willing to lend against it.

This issue is affecting leaseholders and building owners across the country. We've been calling for government action to ensure EWS1 forms are only required by lenders on the correct buildings.

The latest Government advice is lenders should not ask for EWS1 forms on buildings below 18 metres. You'll find more information here about the EWS1 form and what we're doing to help.

We’d encourage any homeowner who’s looking to staircase, remortgage, or sell their property to contact us first before incurring any fees for legal or financial advice. If you're unable to sell then please talk to us about what options may be available.

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When will an EWS1 form be ready for my building? Is my home worthless?

We’ve found some mortgage lenders will not lend where blocks require fire remedial works, although this doesn’t mean the homes have no value. Our fire engineers will produce satisfactory sign off documentation for the external wall system, to demonstrate compliance with building regulations, once the remedial works are completed.

We’re sorry this could leave some leaseholders in a difficult position, but please speak to us about your options.

We’re happy to discuss things on a case-by-case basis with homeowners who are currently in the staircasing, remortgaging, or sale process.

We’d strongly encourage any homeowner who’s looking to staircase, remortgage, or sell their property to contact us first before incurring any fees for legal or financial advice.

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Do you not understand how upsetting this is?

We completely understand this is causing concern for affected leaseholders and we’re sorry for any distress caused. But we’re doing all we can to avoid costs being passed to leaseholders.

We want to reassure affected leaseholders we’re continuing to explore all options to recover these costs from others. We will only charge leaseholders as a last resort.

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This is affecting my mental health – how can you support me?

We’re really sorry you’re having to go through this. This is a situation many other residents across the country are facing too.

Our staff are empathetic to the situation you’re in.

You’re not alone. If you’re feeling stressed or are struggling, please talk to us and we can signpost you to support services. The NHS has lots of useful resources, while the Samaritans and Mind may prove helpful too.

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