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Can Building Safety Fund be sped up?

Leaseholders are frustrated by the snail pace of BSF applications. This blog explains why applications take so long and what opportunities exist to speed up the process.


The question is relevant to RMC / RTM directors who need to fund external wall remediation via the 18m+ Building Safety Fund (BSF) or 11-18m Cladding Safety Scheme (CSS).

A RMC / RTM board can register for the Building Safety Fund or Cladding Safety Scheme as the “Applicant” using a PAS9980 Fire Risk Appraisal of External Walls (FRAEW) report. Here is the first opportunity to save time. Many Applicants dive in but end up wasting crucial months at this key stage. Please beware, a PAS9980 FRAEW report submitted for BSF registration requires much more information than one prepared for other reasons such as EWS1 or Fire Safety Act 2021 compliance. General poor quality, inconsistencies, omissions or ambiguous information about wall systems, fire risks and mitigation measures will cause rejection. Amazingly, most reports I've seen don't meet BSF criteria and are littered with mistakes! Rejection appeals are excruciatingly slow. Even a minor mistake can cost you 6 months. I offer an invaluable quality checking service of your PAS9980 FRAEW report against BSF requirements. Invest a little time getting it right now to avoid months and months of pain.


It is a common misconception that registration is the BSF application. In reality, the PAS9980 survey and FRAEW report only represents about 5% of the necessary pre-construction work for a BSF or CSS application.


Once the quality check of the FRAEW is passed (typically a 2 month wait), the building is registered and now the full 2-stage BSF application actually begins. Contact me for advice on key tasks that RMC and RTM boards can begin during the 2 month wait to ensure the period isn't a wasted opportunity to get ahead of the game.


To receive a grant payout, a full BSF Stage 2 application has four pre-requisites:

  1. Schedule of Full Works and Costs (based on a tender & contract sum analysis);

  2. Negotiated Works Contract on the verge of execution with agreed dates;

  3. Building Control full plans approval; and

  4. Third party cost recovery questionnaire.

The pre-requisite list looks deceivingly simple. Applicants typically spend 6-12 months and £200k+ on professional and legal fees before submitting the full BSF application. Items 1-3 are required for any building project and are not BSF bureaucracy.


A PAS9980 survey and FRAEW report represents about 5% of the necessary pre-construction work. There is a lot more to the BSF application than simple form-filling, box ticking and waiting an eternity for a funding decision.


PAS9980 FRAEW reports only provide simple recommendations such as “replace combustible material with non-combustible material; install cavity barriers".


The Applicant now needs to turn the simple PAS9980 FRAEW recommendations into a buildable design compliant with Building Regulations, and agree a robust priced Works Contract. To do so, the Applicant will need to appoint various professional consultancies e.g. Client-Side Advisor, Project Manager, Cost Consultant, Architect, Façade Engineer, Fire Engineer, CDM Principal Designer, Building Regs Principal Designer, Building Control Approver (sub-18m buildings only, as 18m+ now need to apply to the Building Safety Regulator for building control), Solicitor, and Applicant’s Representative. Typical tasks during this stage include: conceptual designs and specifications sufficient to tender the works to Principal Contractors; further surveys; planning permission; contract sum analysis of the tender returns; tender queries; legal and technical input into contract negotiations; detailed technical design, structural engineering and thermal calculations; Fire Engineer approval; CDM and Building Regs statutory duties; building control approval; and other planning tasks that can impact the price (eg temporary works, traffic management plans, rental of land for storage and site cabins, insurance policies, protection agreements for neighbouring railways & waterways, and the list goes on).


The volume of planning work (hence cashflow) required to even derive the contractual cost of construction works, demonstrates why BSF with its Pre-Tender Support (PTS) payout is an optimal cashflow route for RMCs / RTMs with no assets, compared with legal routes such as Remediation Contribution Orders (explained further in another blog here).


Ultimately, the planning work boils down to one question: What will it cost the Applicant contractually to undertake works that comply with Building Regulations?


During most of this time, BSF / CSS is waiting for the Applicant to procure and submit the key pre-requisites. I explain the vital importance of proactive RMC and RTM directors as Project Client in another blog here. I empathise with RMC / RTM directors who feel lost navigating the minefield, or feel uncomfortable or unable to challenge their professional team with difficult questions around programme efficiency, procurement strategy, risk management and the like. There can be a temptation to just let the project run its course, but being a hands-off client can be the difference between the application taking 12 months instead of 6! Don't assume your professional team is working optimally. That is why I created Clad To Help using my expertise as a Chartered Engineer to help RMC / RTM boards turbocharge their application from the client-side.


Once the Stage 2 application is submitted, the BSF approval and payout period can take DLUHC an unforgiveable 4-5 months. DLUHC must look to optimise this period, not least because it requires contractors to hold their price (not yet contractually locked in) for longer than usual. Cost benchmarking checks should be sped up. The Funding Approval Board only meets fortnightly and trivial queries can delay decisions another fortnight. The simple task of populating the Grant Funding Agreement (GFA) with the Applicant's details takes DLUHC’s legal department weeks, as does DLUHC signing once the Applicant has signed.


The tasks on the DLUHC side should to be sped up, but there is no avoiding the fact that a BSF / CSS application, like any building project, requires months of planning work driven by the client. It can take a year to receive BSF / CSS payout, but possibly twice as long without a strong client-side RMC / RTM board driving things and being guided by good advice.


RMC / RTM directors must navigate the complexities of remediation, and carry many responsibilities on the client-side of the project, but please have hope that success is within reach. No matter what stage you are at or who your team is, benefit from my unique offering: first-hand BSF knowledge, guidance and steering advice from a fellow leaseholder, RMC Director, Chartered Engineer and £13m BSF recipient, with expertise in complex project delivery, acting as your Client-side Advisor. I can undertake a 'deep dive' review of your current situation, challenge your team as a "friendly critic" and advise first-hand how to optimise and de-risk your application. CONTACT ME today with your problems and let’s arrange a free chat to solve them.


Read below how I can help you

 

If you have discovered fire safety issues with your external walls, you could benefit from strategic advice from me, a leaseholder, RMC Director, Chartered Engineer and Project Management Expert who has led his own apartment block and others through the highly complex Building Safety Fund process. For support which protects leaseholders and offers cost and time saving strategies, please contact Scott@cladtohelp.co.uk to arrange an initial chat.


This blog post is purely for informational purposes. This information is provided in good faith and we assume no responsibility or liability for any errors or omissions in the content. Under no circumstances will Clad To Help Ltd be held responsible or liable in any way for any claims, damages, losses, expenses, costs or liabilities whatsoever resulting or arising directly or indirectly from the use of or reliance on the information or arising from your inability to use or access the information. This blog is not legal advice. Full Copyright Notice available at www.cladtohelp.co.uk. All rights reserved.


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Scott has been a huge help to our RTM. His attention to detail and knowledge has been invaluable. We were swamped by information overload around the technicalities and process, but Scott has challenged and defended our position as a RTM. As Scott has been through this process as a leaseholder, he's had our interest at heart. His focus has been client-based around our risk and protections, something our ex-managing agent hadn't been doing. We feel much more confident moving forward as he's kept the project leaders on their toes. Scott spotted 75 potential issues from our PAS9980 report. It meant a further inspection (at the assessor's expense) was needed because of the omissions. We would never have spotted so ma…


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