Government forces developers to fix cladding crisis

Government take action of cladding disaster

The Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, Michael Gove MP, has written to developers to warn them that they must pay to fix cladding defects in 11-18 metre residential leasehold buildings.

In a public letter released today, Mr Gove presented the industry with a deadline of early March to agree to a fully funded plan of action.

In the letter, the Secretary of State asks companies to agree to:

  • make financial contributions to a dedicated fund to cover the full outstanding cost to remediate unsafe cladding on 11-18 metre buildings, currently estimated to be £4 billion
  • fund and undertake all necessary remediation of buildings over 11 metres that they have played a role in developing
  • provide comprehensive information on all buildings over 11 metres which have historic safety defects and which they have played a part in constructing in the last 30 years

Mr Gove also states that:

“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 problems they did not cause.

“Government has accepted its share of responsibility and made significant financial provision through its ACM remediation programme and the Building Safety Fund. Some developers have already done the right thing and funded remedial works and I commend them for those actions.

“But too many others have failed to live up to their responsibilities.”

The letter issued a warning to developers that the government will take all steps necessary to make this happen, including restricting access to government funding and future procurements, the use of planning powers and the pursuit of companies through the courts if they do not comply. Mr Gove also added that if industry fails to take responsibility for remediation, the government will if necessary impose a solution in law.

The government is still set to announce a decision on which companies are in scope for funding contributions, but it is expected to cover all firms with annual profits from housebuilding at or above £10 million.

Later today, the Secretary of State is also due to make an oral statement to the House of Commons announcing plans to protect leaseholders, who are trapped in unsellable homes and face excessive bills to fix dangerous cladding defects. In respect of this, Mr Gove is set to unveil a package of measures to end the situation of buildings being declared unsafe when they are not.

Mr Gove says developers must take forward all necessary remediation work at pace – prioritising those with greatest risks first and in all cases finding the quickest and most proportionate solution to make buildings safe.

He calls on industry to enter an open and transparent dialogue with the government to hear their proposals, starting with a roundtable with the largest residential developers and trade bodies. The government will invite leaseholders and those affected by the Grenfell Tower tragedy to the table to discuss solutions at appropriate junctures to ensure discussions are not taking place behind closed doors.

The government will announce a decision on which companies are in scope for funding contributions following discussions with industry but expect it to cover all firms with annual profits from housebuilding at or above £10 million.

Fire Safety Bill comes into law in Wales

The Fire Safety Act 2021 has now come into force in Wales.

It amends the Fire Safety Order 2005 (“the 2005 Order”) and clarifies that for any building containing two or more sets of domestic premises

  • The 2005 Order applies to the building’s structure and external walls and any common parts, and applies to the entrance doors to individual flats opening into common parts; and
  • References to external walls in the 2005 Order include “doors or windows in those walls” and “anything attached to the exterior of those walls (including balconies).”

The aim of these amendments to the 2005 Order is to clarify that the Responsible Person must manage and reduce the risk of fire for these areas.

The fire risk assessment will therefore be required to cover these areas.

The clarification empowers the local fire and rescue authority to take enforcement action in respect of these areas.

To accompany the Act coming into force the Welsh Government has also published guidance on the roles and responsibilities of those responsible for fire safety in buildings.

Further and more detailed guidance will also be published in the coming months.

Further information:

Leaseholder advice from ARMA on cladding and the mortgage market

ARMA advice on cladding and the mortgage market

In this section we want to provide help and information to leaseholders on what is happening in the cladding and mortgage market.

The Government introduced Advice Note 14 (AN14) in December 2018. It has had unintended consequences in that it effectively requires buildings to conform to today’s building safety standards rather than those at the time it was built. Prior to this as long as the building was signed off when it was built, that was deemed sufficient.

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