Government’s waking watch support fund extended

First opened in May 2023, the Department for Levelling Up, Housing, and Communities (DLUHC) has announced a deadline extension for its 2023 Waking Watch Replacement Fund.

Introduced as a means to cover the installation costs of a common alarm system at higher-risk residential buildings, the 2023 fund is a revised version of the earlier £35 million Waking Watch Relief Fund (WWRF) and the £27 million Waking Watch Replacement Fund 2022.

In May 2023, DLUHC introduced an additional £18.6 million to financially support leaseholders who may have faced “high costs or delays in the implementation of interim safety measures”, namely costly and resource-intensive waking watch measures. As previously reported by the FPA, the grant covers the “upfront capital costs” of installing an alarm system “regardless of where the costs of the waking watch fall”.

DLUHC states that replacing waking watches at buildings with fire safety defects aligns with the National Fire Chief’s Council’s Simultaneous Evacuation Guidance (SEG), which “actively discourage[s] the ongoing and prolonged use of a waking watch”. The guidance replaces the previous ‘Stay Put’ fire safety strategy and recommends the use of a common fire alarm system that has been designed in accordance with the recommendations of BS 5839-1 for a Category L5 system.

While the earlier funds focused on high-rise buildings (over 17.7 metres) with unsafe cladding and then on buildings of any height with a fire safety defect, the 2023 fund extends the government’s financial support to a wider range of buildings, that is, “all residential buildings”, as defined in Paragraph 13 of the government guidance: 

‘Residential buildings’ means, for the purpose of the fund, properties used primarily for residential accommodation (including student accommodation). For the avoidance of doubt this excludes property used as hotels. It will be in the Secretary of State’s discretion to determine whether or not a property subject to an application to the fund is primarily residential.”

As Inside Housing reports, “Any residential building in England with a waking watch will be eligible, but it cannot be used to recoup costs for work which has already begun.

As noted in the guidance, “protecting leaseholders from fire safety costs and reducing the excessive use of Waking Watch remain a priority”.

The government has acted to protect leaseholders from the costs of historical fire safety defects by introducing the leaseholder protections set out in Part 5 of the Building Safety Act 2022. The protections mean that the majority of leaseholders can no longer be required to contribute to the costs of Waking Watch and alarms and moves liability to pay, that would previously have sat with leaseholders, to landlords and building owners. This excludes non-qualifying leaseholders such as those with more than three properties.

Although in most cases the leaseholder protections shift the liability to pay for costly waking watch measures away from leaseholders, the Secretary of State is clear that waking watch remains in place in too many buildings and for too long. Wawing watch should only be used in the most exceptional circumstances and, where it is used, it should be in place for the shortest period possible while an alarm is installed.

The Secretary of State has, therefore, decided to extend the fund to all residential buildings (as defined in paragraph 13 of this guidance) with a waking watch regardless of where the costs of waking watch fall.”

Those applying for the funding will now have until midnight on 31 March 2024 to submit their application.

More information can be found here.