Today’s announcement is 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.
In particular, we welcome the legal commitment that no leaseholder in a building above 11m will pay to remove cladding; that developers and other building owners that can afford to do so are legally obliged to pay non-cladding costs; that courts are to be given powers to prevent developers using shell companies to avoid liability; and that new powers will block developers who refuse to play ball from planning consent and building control. These steps are all hugely positive.
However, many questions still remain – questions we raised today in our meeting with the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities and which we will also be bringing up with Michael Gove next week. The most significant is the ‘Florrie’s Law’ leaseholders’ cap of £10,000 (or £15,000 in London) when developers or building owners are unable to pay for remediation. Since 2017, successive Ministers have said in the Commons that leaseholders should not have to pay to fix buildings they don’t own – but here we see some may have to. How is this fair? While these may seem small sums to Ministers, they are enormous amounts to many ordinary people across the country – especially coming at a time of pay freezes, food price rises and energy cost hikes. How does any of this fit in with Mr Gove’s levelling up agenda?
There are still a number of areas of concern, unanswered questions and gaps in the proposed solution, so we welcome the commitment to deliver the right result for leaseholders. Our campaign has, at its heart, always been one of justice and the simple notion of fairness: why should leaseholders have to pay to fix a problem for which they are in no way responsible? Especially as the guilty parties – who, let us not forget, have made huge profits off the back of shoddy construction, poor customer service and the shirking of their moral obligations – continue to wriggle off the hook?
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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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