Yesterday the Housing Secretary, Michael Gove, presented the Government’s plans to parliament to fix the building safety crisis, and protect thousands of leaseholders from the crippling costs of remediating unsafe cladding.
The latest announcement comes from the fourth housing secretary to have attempted to address the issue, more than four and a half years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy killed 72 people. The last time such an announcement was made was in February 2021. At the time the then Housing Secretary, Robert Jenrick, announced ‘an unprecedented intervention—a clear plan to remove unsafe cladding’.
However, for the first time the Government has now guaranteed that “no leaseholder living in a building above 11 metres will ever face the costs for fixing dangerous cladding”.
Setting out the proposals, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said :
‘More than 4 years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the system is broken. Leaseholders are trapped, unable to sell their homes and facing vast bills. But the developers and cladding companies who caused the problem are dodging accountability and have made vast profits during the pandemic whilst hard working families have struggled.
From today, we are bringing this scandal to an end – protecting leaseholders and making industry pay.
We will scrap proposals for loans and long-term debt for leaseholders in medium-rise buildings and give a guarantee that no leaseholder living in their own flat will pay a penny to fix dangerous cladding.
Working with members of both Houses, we will look to bring a raft of leaseholder protections into law through our Building Safety bill.
And we will restore much needed common sense on building safety assessments, ending the practice of too many buildings being declared unsafe.’
Safety Remediation Costs
The Government had previously committed up to £5bn to fix unsafe cladding on buildings over 18m. To fund the extension of remediation to buildings between 11m and 18m the Housing Secretary has written to developers to convene a meeting before March to agree an additional £4bn of funding.
In his letter, Michael Gove is calling for a commitment from developers to :
‘Fund and undertake all necessary remediation of buildings over 11m that you have played a role in developing (ie both 11-18m and 18m+). Any work undertaken by developers themselves on 11-18m buildings will reduce the total cost of cladding remediation that has be paid for through the proposed 11-18m fund’
The attempt to reach agreement with developers comes with the threat that if industry does not come to the table and agree to a solution, the government will be forced to impose one. Clauses in the Building Safety Bill will allow the government to introduce a levy on developers of high-rise buildings, increasing the 4% tax on the largest most profitable developers, which was announced in this year’s Budget.
Protection for leaseholders
Michael Gove also announced an additional £27 million to fund the installation of fire alarms in all high risk buildings to increase the safety of residents and bring to an end the use of expensive waking watch measures.
The government will also introduce amendments to the Building Safety Bill to retrospectively extend the legal right of building owners and leaseholders to demand compensation from their building’s developer for safety defects. The Bill currently covers defects up to 15 years and this will be increased to defects up to 30 years old.
Building Safety Inspections
The government yesterday announced the withdrawal of what has become known as the Consolidated Advice Note, which it stated as being wrongly interpreted by the industry as applying to all buildings irrespective of height. This will be replaced by British Standard PAS9980, which had previously been published in draft.
The government hopes that the new guidance will help fire risk assessors take a more proportionate approach to the assessment of walls and avoid wholesale cladding replacement where safe to do so. We have incorporated consideration of PAS9980 in all of our reports since it was published as a draft standard last year. We will set out the practical implications of PAS9980 in a future article.
Michael Gove went on to announce the planned introduction of an indemnity scheme for building assessors producing EWS1 forms. This is intended to ‘give them greater confidence to exercise professional judgement’, although no detail was provided. The government also announced plans to audit building assessments to make sure expensive remediation is only advised where necessary to remove a threat to life.
Future Building Safety
To ensure the building safety crisis can never happen again, the government also published new procurement guidance. This is intended to remove incentives for industry to cut corners in procurement. Legislation going through parliament will also ban ground rent charges for most new residential leases. This is expected to take effect later this year.
For further information on the building safety measures announced yesterday, the EWS1 Survey process and how this might change with the introduction of PAS9980, please contact :
Senior Director - Head of Building Consultancy
DD : 020 7947 0915
M : 07803 045 553
Senior Director - Birmingham
DD : 0121 828 8801
M : 07377 564 613
Director - Manchester
DD : 0161 528 7691
M : 07950 795 303
Senior Director - Bristol
DD : 0117 911 3061
M : 07985 233 667
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