Cladding: Flat owners get more bills

Lewis Goodall
BBC Newsnight Policy editor

Image source, AFP

BBC Newsnight reports that flat owners won’t have to pay for dangerous cladding to be removed from buildings of lower height under the new government plans.

Leaseholders who live in buildings measuring between 11 to 18.5m are no longer expected to borrow personal loans to pay for the construction costs.

Instead, the government will try to secure up to £4bn from developers towards the costs.

It already had promised to remove the cladding on taller buildings.

Housing department budget may be used if ministers fail to get funding for developers

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After the Grenfell fire that claimed the lives of 72 victims in 2017, hundreds of fire-safety defects such as flammable and inflammable cladding were found in flats all over the UK.

Removal of cladding may cost millions per block. This cost is often borne outright by flat owners under leasehold systems in England and Wales.

More than 4 years after Grenfell’s destruction, nearly 200,000 people still live in hazardous blocks. Many flat owners face spiralling insurance and service costs as well expensive 24 hour “waking watch” protections in the event of a fire.

A new set of measures will be unveiled next week by Michael Gove, Secretary-of-State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities. He will inform the Commons, that developers will not pay to have cladding removed voluntarily, and will force them to do so.

BBC reports that Mr Gove will inform them next week of his intention to put them on notice.

Previously, the government had committed up to £5bn for the removal of dangerous cladding for buildings taller than 18.5m.

Since long, Cladding Campaigners demand that both the government and leaseholders accept the principles that only buildings less than 18.5m should be insured.

Newsnight has received documents from Simon Clarke, Chief Secretary of the Treasury to Mr Gove. He says:

  • These extra costs will be covered by existing Treasury funding.
  • That the cost of the extra cladding removal must not exceed £4bn
  • The new provisions will only cover cladding, and not any other fire safety defect
  • Even if Gove doesn’t succeed in convincing developers to make the payments, it should still be paid from housing budgets. Safety must always take priority over supply.

Experts question whether £4bn will be sufficient to cover cladding in buildings under 18.5m.

However, cladding does not solve all problems in thousands upon thousands of homes across the nation.

The exact method leaseholders will use to pay their rent and the speed at which any developers money will arrive is not clear.

Developers tend to insist that their developments are built according to the rules and therefore they don’t have any liability.

This process is not compelled immediately and leaseholders are left in homes they can’t sell.

Leaseholders in excess of 200,000 have received or are expected to receive bills regarding fire remediation.

Also, it is not certain if these measures will suffice to restore lender and market confidence in properties being built new.

Many leaseholders find their homes worthless and ineligible for mortgage.

Gove raised the question in November about why flat owners have to pay for dangerous cladding being removed from their properties.

He claimed that it was the government’s responsibility to support leaseholders, “innocent persons”, with huge financial costs.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities refused to comment.


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