Fire Alarm Fund announcement

25th January 2021

Cladding systems legal expert James Bessey examines the Fire Alarm Fund announcement following further details being released.

On 17 December 2020, we commented on the Government’s announcement of a new £30m waking watch mitigation fund and that it would be welcome news for many leaseholders. The fund was announced as £30m to pay for measures such as fire alarms, additional detectors or extensions to systems that would abate expensive waking watch measures, which have become an increasingly common in buildings affected by combustible cladding systems.

Applications will open later this month, with full details to follow at that point. In the meantime, the Government has confirmed some details of who will be able to obtain fund (and those who, unfortunately, won’t). Significantly, the fund will not have retrospective effect and the cost of any fire alarms installed prior to 17 December 2020 will not be covered. This will be disappointing news for the many leaseholders in buildings where these works have already been carried out and who are facing significant service charge costs as a result.

Other keys points are:

  • The fund applies only to private sector leaseholders or social housing leaseholders who are liable to pay for alarm by service charge (e.g. shared owners)
  • It will only be available for buildings over 18 metres
  • The buildings must have an ‘unsafe cladding system’
  • The buildings must have a waking watch in place, with the cost being passed on to leaseholders as service charge
  • Applications will be made by the Responsible Person

Anyone familiar with the government’s Building Safety Fund or ACM Cladding Remediation fund will recognise terms such as Responsible Person (usually the Management Company or Freeholder responsible for carrying out the works). It seems likely that the same eligibility criteria will be used and what is an “unsafe cladding system” may well mirror the types of claddings systems the Building Safety Fund applies to.

For many, the fact the fund will not apply retrospectively will mean it is too little too late. The Building Safety Fund and many new build warranties do not cover these costs. Some will be stuck with possibly years of waking watch costs, plus the cost of any fire alarm previously installed, having to pursue claims against Contractors or Developers to recover those costs, if such claims are available to them and are not now time-barred.

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