Government launches service for leaseholders to track cladding remediation

Government launches service for leaseholders to track cladding remediation

 

The service is expected to speed up remediation by creating transparency and holding building owners to account. 

It will also allow leaseholders to see which building owners are yet to take action to make their properties safer, the government said.  

This follows steps announced by Michael Gove, the secretary of state for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities this month to put pressure on the industry and protect leaseholders from unnecessary costs and delays. 

While the majority of building owners have applied for the £5.1bn Building Safety Fund, a few are yet to come forward and provide building information, the government said.  

Under this new service, leaseholders and residents will be given a unique code to track the progress of their building’s application and information will be updated monthly.  

They will be encouraged to contact building owners if they are not given a code or if they have queries on the status of the property’s application. 

Minister of state for Building Safety and Fire, Lord Greenhalgh said: “It is unacceptable that four years after the Grenfell tragedy innocent leaseholders are still living in buildings with unsafe cladding. 

“Building owners are responsible for making their building’s safe, and we will no longer allow them to shirk from their duties and hide behind processes and corporate loopholes.” 

He added: “Everyone – including leaseholders – has a right to know what is happening with their building and to live safely. The launch is a key step in providing them with both the service and the peace of mind that they deserve.” 

Gove outlines government cladding action and puts developers on notice

Gove outlines government cladding action and puts developers on notice

 

In a speech in the House of Commons yesterday, Gove (pictured) said: “I am putting them [developers] on notice. To those who mis-sold dangerous products, such as cladding or insulation, to those who cut corners to save cash as they developed or refurbished people’s homes, and to those who sought to profiteer from the consequences of the Grenfell tragedy: we are coming for you.”

He said he had established a dedicated team in the department to “expose and pursue those responsible” and it would review government schemes and programmes to ensure there are “commercial consequences for any company that is responsible for this crisis and refusing to help to fix it”.

It comes after Gove gave developers a March deadline for cladding remediation plans and said that if the industry failed to take responsibility then the government would “impose a solution into law”.

He added: “We must also restore common sense to the assessment of building safety overall. The government are clear—we must find ways for there to be fewer unnecessary surveys. Medium-rise buildings are safe, unless there is clear evidence to the contrary.

“There must be far greater use of sensible mitigations, such as sprinklers and fire alarms, in place of unnecessary and costly remediation work.”

 

Government action

Gove confirmed the withdrawal of the government’s consolidated advice note, which provided guidance on how to assess a building’s external walls, smoke control systems and identified the types of short-term interim measures.

He said it had been “wrongly interpreted and has driven a cautious approach to building safety in buildings that are safe that goes beyond what we consider necessary”.

He also said there would be “new and proportionate guidance for assessors”, developed in conjunction with British Standards Institution, which would be brought out this week.

Gove continued that the government would press ahead with the Building Safety Fund and adapt it, so it was “consistent with our proportionate approach”.

He added before Easter he would implement the scheme to indemnify building assessors doing external wall assessments, which would give them confidence to exercise their “balanced professional judgement”.

Gove will also work with lenders over the coming months to “improve market confidence” and Lord Greenhalgh will also work with insurers on new approaches to lower premiums for leaseholders.

Gove added that he would take the power to review the governance of Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to ensure it was equipped to support a solution to the cladding crisis.

He said the government would do its utmost to “relieve the burden that has been unfairly placed on leaseholders”, and he would scrap the proposal for loans and long-term debt for medium-rise leaseholders.

Gove said: “Leaseholders are shouldering a desperately unfair burden. They are blameless, and it is morally wrong that they should be the ones asked to pay the price. I am clear about who should pay the price for remedying failures. It should be the industries that profited, as they caused the problem, and those who have continued to profit, as they make it worse.”

He confirmed that no leaseholder living in a building over 11 metres will face costs for fixing dangerous cladding, and it would work with members of both houses to “purse statutory protection for leaseholders and nothing will be off the table”.

One of these actions includes amending the Building Safety Bill to extend the rights of leaseholder to challenge those who causes defects in premises to 30 years.

It would also provide an additional £27m to fund more fire alarms, and change grant guidance so shared owners can more easily sub-let their properties. He also added that he would encourage lenders and landlords to approve sub-letting arrangements.

The government will also put the recommendations of the Hackitt review on building safety into law and would commence on the Fire Safety Act.

Gove gives developers March deadline for cladding remediation plans

Gove gives developers March deadline for cladding remediation plans

In a letter, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Michael Gove (pictured) said developers should agree to make financial contributions to a fund to cover all outstanding costs for cladding remediation on buildings between 11 and 18 metres high, which is estimated to cost around £4bn.

He urged companies to agree to fund and undertake “all necessary remediation” on buildings over 11 metres they helped develop, and to provide “comprehensive information” on all buildings above 11 metres with historic safety defects they had a role in building.

Gove warned that if developers fail to produce such plans, then the government could restrict access to funding and future procurements, limit use of planning powers and pursue companies through the courts.

Gove added that if the industry fails to take responsibility, then the government will “impose a solution in law”.

The housing secretary is expected to make a speech in the House of Commons today to confirm plans to protect leaseholders, who are stuck in unsellable homes and face rising bills due to cladding, along with other measures around building safety.

He said: “It is neither fair nor decent that innocent leaseholders, many of whom have worked hard and made sacrifices to get a foot on the housing ladder, should be landed with bills they cannot afford to fix or problems they did not cause.

He added that the government had accepted its share of responsibility and “made significant financial provision” though its ACM remediation programme and Building Safety Fund,

Gove said some developers had “already done the right thing” and funded remedial works but “too many others have failed to live up to their responsibilities”.

The letter said that most buildings between 11 and 18 metres are safe, and some with combustible cladding are or could be made safe through existing or new safety fire measures.

Gove said that developers must “take forward all necessary remediation work at pace” prioritising with the greatest risk and “funding the quickest and most proportionate solution” to make buildings safe.

He said the industry should “enter an open and transparent” dialogue” with the government on potential proposals, kicking off with a roundtable of key residential developers and trade bodies.

Leaseholders and those impacted by the Grenfell Tower tragedy will also be at the roundtable to ensure transparency.

A full announcement on which companies are in scope for funding contributions from the government will be made in due course, but it is expected to cover firms whose annual profits from housebuilding are or exceed £10m.

Government cladding remediation bill reaches £578m

Government cladding remediation bill reaches £578m

 

More than half of the £1bn fund announced in the Budget of March 2020 has been spent on works on private and social housing as of 31 July 2021.

The Building Safety Fund was to be allocated to works on blocks of 18 metres or higher in 2020 to 2021.

The private sector accounted for the majority of the money allocated, at a total value of £499.2m. The value of the money approved for the social sector stands at £78.7m. 

In total, 2,820 registrations for the fund have been made by the private sector. Of those, 663 proceeded to an application.

Some 477 registrations made by building owners in the private sector were ineligible, while 548 withdrew their applications.  

As of 31 July, 342 registrations are under review and 545 have no available evidence to assess their verification for the fund.

Some £318.4m has been provided to remediate 127 residential buildings with non-ACM cladding while £62.4m have been issued to 36 properties with both ACM and non-ACM cladding. 

This week, the government revealed it was considering amending the Building Safety Bill to introduce a principle of ‘polluter pays’. If implemented, this will allow the government to pursue remediation and interim safety costs from responsible parties in the construction industry, such as developers and builders, rather than leaseholders or homeowners. 

The clause will have no time limitations and will divide building owners into two groups, those that did not comply to building regulation at the time of construction, and those that were compliant when they were built but are no longer compliant following Grenfell. 

More time may be permitted for Building Safety Fund applications on ‘case by case basis’ – Pincher

More time may be permitted for Building Safety Fund applications on ‘case by case basis’  – Pincher

 

The £1bn fund, which was introduced as part of the March budget last year, aims to support the remediation of unsafe non-ACM cladding on residential buildings that are 18 metres and over.

In December the deadline for applications to the fund was extended to 30 June this year, with the ‘start on site’ date moving to 30 September 2021.

The Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government Christopher Pincher (pictured) said that the timelines for the fund were “intended to incentivise building owners to speed up plans to identify and remediate unsafe buildings” but that meeting the deadlines may not be possible.

He explained: “The deadlines for the fund have been set based on what we know about registrants and their readiness to be able to deliver projects. We recognise, however, that meeting these deadlines may not be possible in all circumstances, for instance where applicants find that they do, in order to meet the 30 June deadline, to submit full applications for grant funding.”

Pincher added: “More time may be permitted on a case-by-case basis, providing applicants continue to keep delivery partners fully informed and provide them with realistic timetables.”

However, he urged registrants to continue to “maximise the pace of remediation” so “remedial works are carried out as soon as possible”.

He also reiterated the government’s pledge in February for an additional £3.5bn funding to rectify non-safe ACM cladding.

Pincher added that the government was currently working on the details of a finance scheme to compensate leaseholders in buildings of between 11 and 18 metres in height.

He said: “We are working to develop the underpinning details of the finance scheme to ensure it protects leaseholders, prioritising affordability and accelerating remediation.  Further detail on the finance scheme will be made available as soon as possible.”

The industry has criticised the government previously for not providing an actual timeline to remove cladding. This is despite repeated warnings form the government to building owners, including naming and shaming building owners who have not fixed cladding.

Analysis from the Labour party earlier this month revealed that cladding remediation could take 22 years.

It noted that between May 2020 and April 2021 an average of eight buildings a month had had their cladding removed, and a further 2,017 were on the waiting list.