EOCS Response to the Building Safety Bill

The Building Safety Bill offers the unique chance for the Government to finally take control of the building safety crisis and, once and for all, to help leaseholders who, through no fault of their own, have found themselves physically, financially and mentally trapped. Unfortunately, the Government still seems scared of getting a grip on this nightmare that has blighted our lives for years.

There have been many leaked headlines over the past 24 hours pushing the Bill’s top lines – that it will introduce a new era of accountability, that there will be tougher sanctions for those who fail to meet their obligations and that there will be protections for leaseholders in the future. These we – very cautiously
– welcome and we, along with every affected leaseholder, will be carefully scrutinising the Bill over the coming few days. But with all the talk of future accountability, what must not be forgotten are the leaseholders of today, the innocent people facing financial ruin and mental anguish over being forced to
live in unsafe homes. How will this Bill truly help the hundreds of thousands like them?

One of the most headline-grabbing initiatives has been that leaseholders will get extra time to take legal action against developers over safety defects. If only it were that simple. The truth – as the Government well knows – is that this is a David and Goliath battle. It pits leaseholders, already struggling with waking
watch bills, exorbitant insurance hikes and enormous remediation costs, against well-funded, powerful and often aggressive developers who know the system is stacked in their favour. Many will simply argue that they cannot be sued because the Government retrospectively changed legislation, then walked away from
the mess it created. Even where there are clear breaches of building regulations, leaseholders, already exhausted, will face years of demoralising and costly legal fights with little certainty of success.

In line with this Government’s general approach to the building safety crisis, the focus seems to be on managing the news cycle and allaying the concerns of the growing number of Conservative backbench MPs who recognise that homeowners are not being treated fairly. Ministers and two Prime Ministers have
promised more than 17 times in Parliament that they would protect leaseholders from costs. During the recent Fire Safety Bill ping-pong, the repeated response was that the Building Safety Bill is the place where the “who pays” argument should be focused. Now, it seems they have cynically devised a means of
divesting themselves of that responsibility.

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