Why hasn’t End Our Cladding Scandal met with my developer?

At the time of writing, 55 developers have signed the developer remediation contract and over the last few months, we have asked several participant developers to meet with us to discuss the progress of their remediation programme. As Michael Gove noted in his recent tweet, we are engaging with the Secretary of State and his Department to share feedback about companies that are delaying making homes safe and any significant concerns for leaseholders and residents. 

Meetings with developers have also been an opportunity to understand wider factors impacting the pace of remediation – where we believe the Department of Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) must take a far more active role to enable progress – or to identify issues that can be escalated to other stakeholders. While the views of leaseholders affected by the building safety crisis do not always align with those of developers, the tone of these meetings has mainly been constructive and useful. 

Leaseholders and residents often ask us when we will be meeting their developer, so that we can highlight the issues that they are experiencing. As our campaign is run by a small number of volunteers, we have mostly prioritised developers with the largest remediation programmes, especially where government data indicates slow progress to date (noting however that DLUHC developer data has not been updated since 31st October 2023 so it is currently four months out of date). We have also taken into account both the volume and nature of issues brought to our attention by leaseholders and residents. 

So far, we have approached 20% of contracted developers to request a meeting, but they account for 70% of expected developer expenditure on remediation, based on the figures disclosed in their most recent published accounts.

Berkeley, Barratt, Redrow, Galliard, Telford Homes and Bellway have all met with us recently (shown in green below). Unfortunately, not all developers have wanted to meet our campaign team (those shown in yellow below). If you are a leaseholder or resident in one of these developers’ buildings, we wanted to share their responses with you below.

Fairview: no response

Fairview’s last annual report indicated that their remediation programme would be completed in three years, by the end of 2025 – which would be earlier than most peers in the industry. DLUHC’s data also appears to show that 100% of Fairview’s relevant buildings have had an assessment, which seems like a good sign of progress; however, we wanted to verify this, as we have found many developers answer this question inconsistently and it may not mean that every building’s assessment has been completed.

Government data shows that by 31st October 2023, 53 Fairview buildings had been identified as needing remediation (including 3 via government remediation schemes). This is significantly more than we might have expected based on the £51m that has been set aside in the company’s financial accounts (the current provision of £46m plus £6m utilised to date). Perhaps the provision will be upweighted in their next annual accounts, and we wanted to ask about this. 

DLUHC data also suggests that remediation plans are in place for almost all buildings that have been identified for remediation so far. Again, this seems positive on the surface – but in our short snap survey amongst leaseholders in October 2023, several respondents from Fairview buildings told us “We do not have a remediation plan or start date”. They also rated communication timeliness and quality as 2.6 out of 10. The feedback showed a mixed picture, with some relatively positive scores but also some concerning comments. 

In addition, we indicated to Fairview that we would like to ask about their approach to buildings under 11 metres, because we are aware of cases where PAS 9980 reports confirm that remediation is required at leaseholders’ expense. 

We wrote to Fairview on 7th December, but unfortunately received no response over a period of two months. If you are a leaseholder or resident and not receiving the engagement you need from Fairview or via your managing agent, please escalate your concerns to DLUHC using the details at the end of this article. 

Avant Homes: declined to engage

At first sight, Viva Midco (parent company of Avant Homes) appears to be near the bottom of our top 20 developer list, with only £17m set aside in their provision for building safety remediation. However, we are aware that one of their developments of 7 buildings in East London has had £35m of funding approved by the Building Safety Fund, which the company will reimburse under the developer contract. We will therefore be looking out for an increase in the value of building safety provisions or expenditure in their next annual report, which we are expecting to be published in March 2024. 

It is concerning to see in DLUHC’s data that only 17% of Avant’s relevant buildings had been assessed by 31st October 2023 (9 buildings). We are conscious that DLUHC’s survey may have elicited inconsistent responses about the number of buildings assessed because of the way the question is framed – but at face value, this appears to be the lowest assessment completion rate of any developer in the scheme. The report also suggested that none of Avant’s assessed buildings had been confirmed to require remediation – either through government schemes or self-remediation. We know that’s not the case (note the 7 buildings mentioned above), so we wanted to get a clearer picture of the situation directly from Avant. 

We also asked for an opportunity to discuss feedback we have received from leaseholders. At one building in Manchester, there has been no communication from the developer at all, or any indication of when the building will be assessed. Insurance costs have soared +506% since discovery of the building’s defects – so with no end in sight, and no communication, the situation is becoming particularly unbearable for some leaseholders. 

We wrote to Avant on 13th December and 18th January. As you might expect, we asked for a director or a programme team lead to meet us, not for assessors to down tools on site. Regrettably, their team declined our meeting request, while implying that meeting us to hear about resident “frustrations” would somehow slow down their building investigations. While they said they would work closely with Relevant Entities and DLUHC, unfortunately they did not suggest they would work closely with their leaseholders and residents. If you are affected, please escalate your concerns to DLUHC using the details at the end of this article. 

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Vistry Group: holding response

The financial provision Vistry has set aside for building safety remediation is the fourth largest amongst UK developers, so naturally we were keen to engage with the company as this affects a considerable number of leaseholders and residents.

We are unclear about Vistry’s progress, because DLUHC’s data paints a notably different picture compared with the more positive view in the Chief Executive’s Review in Vistry’s report for the year ending December 2022. That summary said “of the 304 buildings identified, work has been completed on 59, we are on site on 30, are engaged in the remediation process on 188, with 27 buildings to yet commence”.

However, DLUHC’s data on developer remediation suggests that at 31st October 2023, Vistry had one of the lowest proportions of assessed buildings (41%) amongst peers. It showed 85 buildings had been confirmed as requiring remediation (including 5 via government schemes), equivalent to 71% of assessed buildings – one of the highest rates in the industry. The pace of work also appeared to be significantly slower than average, with only 3 self-remediation projects having started, while 77 buildings identified for self-remediation (96%) had not started work yet. As DLUHC’s reporting is new, we are aware that it might not be giving a true and fair reflection of the situation and have asked the company to give some clarity on this. 

In a survey that we carried out at the end of October, leaseholders in a range of Vistry Group buildings (in Greenwich, Poplar, Stratford, Bristol and Southampton) had rated communication timeliness as 1.3 out of 10 and communication quality 1.4 out of 10. There were some comments of concern included in the feedback, which we had also hoped to discuss with Vistry’s team, including:

• Poor communication, impossible to get any update on anything, unresponsive. 

• Still no clarity on timescales if or when remediation works will occur. 

• Cladding works were due to begin in September [but were repeatedly delayed] … We now have no timescales whatsoever. 

• The remediation firm are cowboys and have created more problems due to unfinished works. 

• Attempts to hide building safety work in the service charge and waking watch still billed to leaseholders. 

• Three years of stress and anxiety chasing us for waking watch payments and refusing to remove fire related costs from our service charge, even after the Bill was passed in Parliament. We have no choice but to try to sell via auction as the service charge is so high, we still have a B2 rating, and no schedule of works or idea when this situation will be over. During the infrequent meetings we have had about this with the agent they were aggressive and rude to us all, refusing to answer questions and throwing people out of meetings if they tried to speak. It has truly been the worst three years of our lives. 

We wrote to Vistry Group on 28th November and again on 20th December and received a polite but short response from the Special Projects Director on 5th January, indicating that they weren’t sure if they needed to meet us and would speak to DLUHC about this. 

If we do not hear from the company in the interim, then we hope to attend their shareholder AGM on 16th May (location to be confirmed, but we expect this to be in London) to ask the Board about their remediation programme. If you are a leaseholder or resident in a Vistry building, please contact us if you would be interested in representing the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign at the AGM by asking a pre-prepared question.

Crest Nicholson: written response but did not accept our meeting request

The funds set aside by Crest Nicholson for building safety are amongst the largest in the industry (ranked 7th), with a provision of £145m on the balance sheet in the year ending October 2023, in addition to approximately £27m utilised prior to that date. The company’s next annual report is due to be published imminently (February 2024) and therefore these figures might be updated soon to reflect new information from the last 12 months. 

DLUHC’s data appears to show that although the company has one of the lowest proportions of assessed buildings so far (50% at 31st October 2023), the proportion of assessed buildings which require remediation is second highest in the industry (83%). The pace of work to date also seems to be notably slower than average, with 90% of buildings that have been identified for self-remediation not having started work yet. As DLUHC’s reporting is new, we asked Crest Nicholson if this data was giving a true and fair reflection of the situation and whether the pace of remediation was expected to increase going forward. 

In our survey at the end of October, we received responses from leaseholders of five Crest Nicholson buildings (in Milton Keyes, Bristol, Portsmouth and Birmingham) who rated communication timeliness 1.6 out of 10 and communication quality 1.0 out of 10. More positively, we heard from some leaseholders that as remediation approached, the frequency of communication from Crest Nicholson increased considerably. But there was some concerning feedback, which we had hoped to discuss with their team, including: 

• Poor or no communication. 

• Works were [scheduled] to be completed in 2022… [Now there is] a legal issue between the developers and the architects… Meanwhile we don’t know if the building is even safe, and it is still un-mortgageable!

• Years later there is no sign of progress, just demands on us to [replace] our front doors. Communication from the management company is appalling.

• Concerned about the amount of time taken to get work underway… still no contractor appointed.

• Frequent claims since Aug 2023 that works were about to start within weeks.

• If the facade is remediated to this standard, it will also fail to meet manufacturer’s specifications… rendering their warranties and guarantees invalid. This means that the project will likely fail to address the issue of excessive insurance costs and the unwillingness of lenders to provide mortgage finance to prospective purchasers.

After we wrote to Crest Nicholson on 29th November, we received a very quick reply which promised a more detailed response, which we ultimately received from the Group Special Projects Director on 15th December. The response highlighted some of the industry-wide challenges the developer has experienced, including a lack of suitably skilled fire engineers and some long-running difficulties agreeing access for carrying out surveys on “a handful” of projects. Signs of progress were noted towards the end of 2023, and they expected the data to show visible progress in the first half of 2024. 

We were also advised that the company is taking steps to increase the frequency of communication and ensure information is reliably passed on by other parties. However, if any leaseholders or residents are having difficulty getting information via their managing agent, they asked us to share details of their building safety inbox, [email protected], which is also signposted on their website.

The full response can be read here. The director did not respond to our further request for a meeting.

We hope to attend the company’s shareholder AGM in Addlestone, Surrey, on 19th March to ask the Board about their remediation programme. If you are a leaseholder or resident in a Crest Nicholson building, please contact us if you would be interested in representing the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign at the AGM by asking a pre-prepared question. 

Lendlease: written response but did not accept our meeting request

The funding that Lendlease has set aside for building safety remediation is amongst the top 10 in the industry, after increasing the provision on their balance sheet to £151m in the summer of 2023. At the time, they noted their current understanding was that their liability related to 59 buildings, 58 of which were originally developed by Crosby, a company it had acquired in 2005 to enter the UK residential market. 

DLUHC’s data suggests that by 31st October 2023, a high proportion of Lendlease’s relevant buildings had already had an assessment (77%). At that stage, the proportion of assessed buildings identified as requiring remediation was significantly below the industry average (only 21%), which is surprising given the increased financial provision in mid-2023. Despite so few buildings being identified for remediation compared with their peers, remediation had also started at a much slower pace, with just two buildings having started work and only three more buildings having a start date within the next 12 months, according to DLUHC’s report. We wanted to understand from Lendlease why their planned pace was so much slower than others in the industry or if they felt the data was inaccurate. 

In our leaseholder survey at the end of October, we only received a small number of responses from Lendlease buildings. However, the respondents rated both communication timeliness and communication quality as 0 out of 10 – obviously a significant cause for concern. In recent months, we have also received reports from multiple buildings in Manchester, London, and Birmingham about a lack of communication on remediation plans, delays to receiving the results of PAS 9980 assessments, concerns that not all works are being funded (e.g. balconies), and disputes over assessments. One particular piece of feedback summed up the feelings of many: 

• Ongoing delay and finger pointing… from a leaseholder perspective we couldn’t care less, we simply want someone to provide us with an update, literally anything, to tell us if/when works will start, what the scope is, and hopefully reassurance that leaseholders won’t be charged for the cost.

We wrote to Lendlease on 5th December and received a detailed response from an anonymous “General Enquiries” team member around five weeks later. The response highlighted some of the same challenges that we have heard from other developers, including difficulties agreeing access terms with some freeholders for carrying out surveys; however, they noted “good progress” was now being made on PAS 9980 assessments. It was also suggested that Lendlease had been provided with information by the Government and Responsible Entities up to 12 months later than other developers had received similar information, which was a cause of delay – although the reason why their particular company had been disadvantaged in this way, or perhaps did not have as strong a relationship with these entities, was not made clear.

Lendlease advised us that they are distributing letters of comfort to all leaseholders via managing agents’ portals – although we have had very mixed feedback about whether this is happening and have shared examples with them. Lendlease does not appear to be publicising a direct communication channel (e.g. a building safety email inbox) through which leaseholders and residents can contact the developer if they are not receiving the information they need via their managing agent, although we have asked about this. 

The full response can be read here. The company said it was open to further questions from us but has not yet responded to our further request for a meeting.

If you are a leaseholder or resident and not receiving the engagement you need from Lendlease or via your managing agent, please escalate your concerns to DLUHC using the details below.

If you cannot get a response from either your building owner or developer – or if your questions have not been sufficiently addressed – please contact DLUHC so they can raise this with the developer on your behalf. Email [email protected], providing the name and address of your building together with a short summary of your concerns, and detailing the attempts you have made to contact the developer, including the contact details that you used.  

Please copy our team at [email protected] so that we are aware of the issues being raised and can follow up if needed.

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