Yorkshire Post - Property
Most positive step forward in the building safety crisis
There is no doubt that Michael Gove, Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, has done more to alleviate the living hell suffered by those caught in the building safety scandal than his lacklustre predecessors but while his efforts so far have been welcomed, there is more to do.
This week he announced a series of amendments to the Building Safety Bill.
They include blocking planning permission and building control sign-off on developments by firms that refuse to pay the costs of removing the unsafe cladding they installed.
The proposed legislation would also allow cladding manufacturers to be sued and fined for using defective products on a home that has since been found unfit for habitation. The mandate will date back 30 years.
The courts will also be given new powers to allow developers to be sued where they have used shell companies to avoid taking responsibility for building safety defects.
The Government also plans to apply its building safety levy to more new high rise developments in a bid to raise more funds for remediation of blighted flats.
New clauses also look set to enshrine in law the commitment Michael Gove made in the House of Commons last month that no leaseholder living in their own home, or sub-letting in a building over 11m, ever pays a penny for the removal of dangerous cladding.
However, most affected buildings have other safety defects including flammable insulation and a lack of fire breaks.
On these non-cladding costs, the Government’s proposed plan is that developers that still own an apartment block over 11m that they built or refurbished or landlords linked to an original developer, will be required to pay in full to fix historic building safety issues. Building owners who are not linked to the developer but can afford to pay will also be required to fund remediation.
Where building owners don’t have the resources to pay, leaseholders will be protected by a cap. This will be set at
£10,000 for homes outside London and £15,000 for homes in the capital.
Any costs paid out by leaseholders over the past five years will count towards the cap, meaning some leaseholders will pay nothing.
The End Our Cladding Scandal campaign group welcomed the announcement as: “The most positive step forward we have yet seen in the building safety crisis.
“Finally, nearly five long years after the Grenfell tragedy, the penny seems to have dropped with the government that leaseholders are the innocent party and that the polluters who caused this crisis must be the ones to pay to fix it.”
However, the campaigners are unhappy within the proposed leaseholders cap of £10,000 to £15,000 when developers or building owners are unable to pay for remediation of historic safety defects.
The group says: “How is this fair? While these may seem small sums to ministers, they are enormous amounts to many ordinary people across the country.”
There is also considerable alarm that landlords who own more than two properties in the UK will not qualify for the leaseholders’ cap and will face huge bills.
The proposed changes to the Building Safety Bill will be debated by the House of Lords on Monday, February 21, during the committee stage of its journey to the statute book.*