Baroness Kath Pinnock has always been an incredibly strong advocate for leaseholders and tenants affected by the building safety scandal, and she was keen to hear directly from the members of the Non-Qualifying Leaseholders group about the ongoing impact on their lives.
More than 50 members of the non-qualifying leaseholder community joined the meeting on 2nd August and took the opportunity to share their experiences with the Baroness and hear her reaffirm her support for our cause.
Amendments: Taking the challenge to the Government head-on
The Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill is currently progressing through the House of Lords and many members of the House are considering the opportunity to attach amendments to the Bill to address the ongoing injustices of the building safety crisis.
There are two ways for an amendment to be “successful”. The first is to pass through both the House of Lords and the Commons. The Government currently has a working majority of 62 in the Commons, so defeating the Government requires at least 32 Conservative backbenchers to vote against them (and more than this for issues where Scotland’s MPs do not vote). The second way to achieve change is by creating rigorous debate, identifying pressure points where the Government may concede ground, and influencing the Government to adopt some or all of an amendment themselves in response to peers/MPs demonstrating their strong support for leaseholders
This will not be the first time that cross-party peers and MPs have tabled numerous amendments to government bills in an attempt to protect leaseholders from building safety costs. Back in November 2020, Baroness Pinnock attached a successful amendment to the Fire Safety Bill that simply stated that leaseholders and tenants must not be asked to pay even one penny for the remediation to make their homes fire safe.
As Baroness Pinnock wrote in the Yorkshire Post, she took the challenge to the Government head-on and argued that “only the Government has the access to funding to pay the £16 billion estimated cost of removing dangerous cladding from all the blocks. This can then be recouped from those who are responsible… there is still time for the Government to do the right thing and pay for all the building remediation costs up front.”
Despite a large coalition of Conservative backbenchers in the Commons who voted in support of various leaseholder protections, it was not enough, and the Government managed to persuade rebels that proposals would come forward in the Building Safety Bill the following year. Once again, supporters in both Houses attempted to build protections into that Bill in numerous ways; the result was that the Government introduced hundreds of pages of their own last-minute amendments (concessions) and all other amendments were dropped or failed to pass.
We have never forgotten the commitment and tenacity that Baroness Pinnock showed when standing up for blameless leaseholders, and she has continued to speak up for us since then. Most recently, she tabled a motion of regret earlier this year, highlighting the Government’s failure to identify and inform leaseholders who may have paid the price for drafting errors in the Building Safety Act. This led to a meeting with Baroness Scott of Bybrook, the DLUHC Minister in the House of Lords, with other DLUHC officials. Kath described how this meeting had demonstrated to her that the Government are both aware of, and seem to be concerned about, the issues facing non-qualifying leaseholders – a topic which we have briefed them on extensively.
Hearing directly from the voices of Non-Qualifying Leaseholders
The Non-Qualifying Leaseholders group is run by non-qualifying leaseholders, for non-qualifying leaseholders. It is important to us that the voices of the people affected are heard by decision-makers and those who can influence them. After an update on the advocacy, political and media activity that the group has undertaken in recent months, a cross-section of members from the group shared their stories in more detail with Baroness Pinnock.
The group now has over 600 members who are excluded from the “leaseholder protections” in the Building Safety Act, with a wide range of circumstances. Leaseholders with more than three UK properties face potentially uncapped costs for any non-cladding defects, other than for the one main home in which they reside, while those in low-rise buildings under 11 metres in height have no support at all for either cladding or non-cladding costs. Leaseholders in enfranchised buildings are excluded from the protections, but cladding remediation may be covered by government funding schemes.
Thank you to everyone who had the courage to share their personal story and how they have been affected. It really brought to life a wide range of issues and consequences that have arisen from the building safety scandal and the flawed legislation, which we hope Kath will be able to draw on when challenging the Government and during debates in the House of Lords.
After listening to our case studies, the Baroness highlighted new facts and aspects of the problem that she had learned. She said, “In a modern society, how disgraceful these circumstances are, and how shocked I [am] to hear of how the Building Safety Crisis is impacting you all…. It is just disgraceful. How have we got to the stage that the Government is closing the doors on so many people?”
Baroness Pinnock encouraged our members to write or email their constituency MPs, as well as Members of the House of Lords, and said she was happy to receive further correspondence herself, although she does have limited resources to reply.
We thanked Baroness Pinnock for her immense support and perseverance in raising questions and fighting for our cause.
Recommendations for taking action
We all know the building safety crisis is far from fixed and many actions are still needed from all of us to drive for solutions. Each speaker who shared their story ended with a key action they would recommend to others. Taking action can also help to reduce feelings of powerlessness and help us to feel that we can influence the situation by working together.
“We have all done one good thing – by joining this group. My advice would be to communicate and educate each other. Never underestimate how much those in authority don’t know!”
“Neighbours worked together and became directors of the building and relentlessly questioned everything. It is very useful to speak to your constituency MP and to speak to the media and ask others on the campaign for help.”
“Encourage more people to engage and encourage others in blocks in similar circumstances to join the group. Be even more honest and open with each other with your stories.”
“It’s too late for me but keep up the fight.”
“Write individual letters to your MP and DLUHC illustrating your personal circumstances, identifying who you consider responsible for these issues, and what needs to be done. Encourage all residents in your building to do the same. Keep in touch with your Managing Agent to keep informed and tell them of your personal actions to create attention and urgency, especially as costs are rising so quickly.”
“There is a stigma with buy-to-let landlords that is being reinforced by the Government. We must not be bullied into remaining silent. Physically meet face-to-face with your MP, have a specific ask for your MP at the ready, and finally always persevere and never give up.”
If you would like to speak to the media – or if you are writing to your MP for the first time or want to ask your MP to table a parliamentary question but you don’t know where to begin – please contact the Non-Qualifying Leaseholders group and we can help you to get started.
The Non-Qualifying Leaseholders group is always looking for volunteers to share their time and skills – including IT, social media, legal, communications, marketing and filmmaking. If you would like to help, please get in touch.
The End Our Cladding Scandal campaign calls on the Government to lead an urgent, national effort to fix the building safety crisis.
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