As the Grenfell Tower Inquiry continues through its second phase of hearings examining the causes of the fire, leaseholders in unsafe homes can take little comfort in the Fire Safety Act 2021 made law last month.
In the midst of a crisis in building safety standards, defeat of the McPartland-Smith amendment in the House of Lords 242 votes to 153 which sought to restrict the passing on of remediation costs to leaseholders now makes leaseholders legally and financially liable for remediation to make their homes safe.
Despite Boris Johnson’s pledge that ‘no leaseholder should have to pay for the unaffordable costs of fixing safety defects that they didn’t cause’, leaseholders must potentially fork out up to £100,000 each to meet new requirements.
Exactly how much leaseholders will be expected to pay, or how they can secure funds to meet new legislative requirements, is only further frustrated by the new and frequently misleading EWS1 fire safety inspection requirements which has seen some leaseholders pay up to three times for duplicate forms in a single year.
So what are beleaguered flat owners to do now? For the small few high-rise buildings taller than 18 meters eligible for remediation the Building Safety Fund is a limited resource that fails to cover all the works required to make homes safe from fire risk including issues around compartmentation and fire door inspections that remain largely unaddressed.
For the remainder, the Government’s promised loan scheme for people living in blocks below six storeys has so far failed to materialise and the Bank of England has raised fears that the cladding scandal is now affecting property values so badly that it could tip the UK into another financial crisis.
The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government suggests that the forthcoming loan scheme is the right vehicle for dealing with remediation costs, yet this would form part of the delegated legislation enabled by the Building Safety Act which could take up to two years to pass into law.
Key policymakers have also failed to address criticisms around the structure of the loan scheme itself, which could require leaseholders to pay up to 50 a month themselves to resolve fire safety issues that were not of their own making.
No one is holding their breath in the hope that this is on the top of the Government’s agenda.
This situation cannot possibly be allowed to continue. Each day leaseholders are facing unaffordable bills, rapidly escalating insurance premiums and unbearable stress associated with EWS1 maintenance costs and regular fire safety inspections.
Something needs to happen and fast. But at the moment it is hard to see where the help that leaseholders so badly need might come from.
At Ringley, we are working hard to help residents where we can. There are all kinds of problems around EWS1 forms and the Governments Building Safety Fund.
But we want our leaseholders to know that we will continue to support you wherever possible to ensure your home is safe and brought up to standard.
Author: Mary-Anne Bowring, Group Managing Director of Ringley