On Thursday 7 September, the Regulator of Social Housing wrote to Registered Providers (RPs) setting out the Regulator's understanding and expectations regarding RAAC.
The Regulator’s understanding is that RAAC is “not widespread in social housing”, but nevertheless that “safety of tenants and residents should be the highest priority” for every landlord. Therefore the Regulator has said that RPs need to ensure they have a “good understanding” of their homes and whether RAAC is present and to develop “proportionate mitigation and remediation plans” and seek professional advice.
This message aligns with the legal obligations of RPs, namely to do what they can to make sure tenants, leaseholders and those visiting and nearby to their buildings are safe, and to do that in a way which is proportionate and consonant with the risks presented.
As we explained in a previous post, RAAC is a potentially severe issue where it is present because it presents a risk of structural failure. The reality appears to be, that it is simply not present in very much social housing. Investigating and confirming that position should be an urgent priority for RPs, who as a sector are well-versed and have developed processes and practices to manage and prioritise building safety risks.
How RPs effectively identify and manage the risk of RAAC will depend on a number of factors including the character of their housing stock. Our view is that there can be no criticism of an RP for focusing on the housing most likely to be affected by RAAC, taking expert advice and acting on it.
- The first step is identifying those buildings at risk from RAAC.
- RAAC was most commonly specified by municipal architects. Along with ex-local authority housing stock, particularly built in the 1960s and 1970s other than with traditional materials, affected buildings may emanate from the education estate (schools and universities), hospital buildings, police and MOD buildings and prisons. RAAC has been confirmed as present in former nursing accommodation so where RPs have acquired homes from the NHS, they should be particularly vigilant.
- RPs will hold a variety of information about their buildings which can inform a risk profile based on building type, age, and who constructed it.
- The second step is verifying the presence of RAAC.
- RPs are unlikely to hold comprehensive documents like as-built drawings to assist with desktop analysis, but all internal information should be consulted in the first instance.
- Surveys, including intrusive inspection where RAAC is obscured, will be necessary in many cases.
- The third step, to be undertaken urgently where RAAC is identified, is developing a remediation plan and implementing it with expert assistance.
- It may be that interim measures are required with the utmost urgency.
- Permanent remediation and/or replacement may be needed, and the timescale should be managed.
- RPs should communicate clearly and openly with affected residents.
, where RAAC is an issue, RPs should consider recovering costs from third parties at the earliest opportunity, because while most claims will be time-limited, some claims could potentially be pursued. If work has been carried out to a residential building containing RAAC in the last 30 years, there may be a claim under the Defective Premises Act 1972. Given that these claims will expire shortly, RPs should act as quickly as they can.