SHEFFIELD property management specialist Omnia Property Group is continuing to work with national safety organisations to ensure the safety of all its national portfolio of properties in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
The Omnia team – accredited members of the Association of Residential Managing Agents – have been actively engaged with ARMA-led seminars and with the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government Building Safety programme about the revised compliance framework introduced by new regulations and the potential impact they would have on leaseholders and landlords.
And the company has established a dedicated External Façades Working Group, consisting of qualified residential property managers and building surveyors, to ensure that any properties that Omnia manages have non-compliance issues progressed in a safe, timely and professional manner.
The Grenfell Tower tragedy unfolded on June 14 2017 when a fire broke out in the 24-storey Grenfell Tower block of flats in Kensington, London, resulting in 72 deaths and more than 70 injuries.
The disaster was the worst UK residential fire since the Second World War and a subsequent public inquiry found that the building’s exterior did not comply with regulations and was the central reason why the fire spread with such devastating consquences.
The Omnia Property Group works across all areas of the property market including block and commercial property management, offices, student accommodation, residential lettings and facilities management.
Its portfolio includes the management of 1,000,000 square feet of office space, 1,500 residential properties and student beds across the UK and more than 1,800 block management units – more than £650,000,000 worth of property in total.
“The emerging focus on exterior wall safety in the wake of Grenfell has created a further challenge for landlords and asset owners in a market already subject to high levels of fluctuation and uncertainty due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Managing Director Joanne Race.
“When the government released the Building Safety Advice for Building Owners Guidance in January 2020, it was interpreted throughout industry as mandating that a building’s exterior wall systems must be compliant with regulations.
“A subsequent consequence of the guidance’s release has seen mortgage lenders and surveyors raise safety concerns about buildings during the sales process, rendering some apartments and even entire buildings as unsellable without remedial works being undertaken.”
The Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) designed and issued the External Wall System form (EWS1) as a mechanism to remove such barriers to transactions, whilst providing all parties with assurances that the building had been appropriately reviewed and was deemed safe for occupation and use.
An EWS1 form can only be completed by a suitably qualified, professional surveyor and usually only after extensive surveys are undertaken of the building to determine if the cladding, materials, and construction methods are safe and compliant.
The government has made available £3.5 billion to help fund work on unsafe exterior wall systems on high-rise buildings where they have been identified as non-compliant with the new regulatory framework.
“We have been able to liaise with our clients to facilitate required surveys, well in advance of other operators within the industry,” said Joanne
“Buildings within our managed portfolio that may be impacted by the new regulatory framework are already well advanced with ensuring their compliance with the new guidance and, where appropriate, funding applications to the government in anticipation of any required remedial works.
“As part of our commitment to ensuring our client’s assets have their value protected and maintain compliance, we have been working alongside national leaders in cladding remedial works to familiarise ourselves with emerging industry best practice and ensure that the advice we provide clients is current and relevant.
“Working alongside the South Yorkshire Fire and Rescue Service, we have also maintained diligent and straightforward communication with our landlords and their tenants during this process.
“The penalties and indirect negative impact on valuation that non-compliance with the new guidance and revised regulatory framework can impose on landlords are substantial.
“But Omnia is now well positioned to advise clients on the impact of these new regulations and how best to navigate their requirements to protect the value of your asset, ensure its compliance and maintain its safety.”