Fire Safety and the Continuing Dilemma for Leaseholders

In a recent press release, property developer Barratt Developments has indicated that they will incur the costs of reinforcing fire safety in a building that they developed, despite no longer being the present freeholder or managing agent of the block.

This is to take into account the need to update the cladding to the block, following the Grenfell Disaster; which resulted in all buildings being assessed for fire safety, and a number of them failing.

By virtue of leases, the majority of works in relation to fire safety, and cladding generally, could fall under the service charge mechanism. Indeed, on a very much case by case basis, and depending on the nature and the cause of the works, there may be a contractual right on the part of the landlord to recover the costs of cladding. As cladding is extraordinarily expensive, the outcome this then has, is that the costs associated with the service charge are so high, that it renders the value of any leasehold property significantly less, or indeed valueless.

Whilst the government has previously urged freeholders to take the step of seeking to cover the costs of any cladding works themselves, and not to pass the costs on to the leaseholders, the fact remains that there is the ability for some freeholders to pass the cost to the leaseholders.

The decision taken by Barratt Developments, one of the leading property developers in this country, is therefore welcome relief; and is likely to provide a number of leaseholders with some hope for the future, in terms of their property.

It is hoped, that as Barratt Developments have taken this step, a number of the other main building contractors, will also take the same step, thereby protecting leaseholders from unnecessary service charges in the future.

Should you have any queries concerning the ability of your freeholder to charge for fire safety provisions, or indeed any other service charge, you should not hesitate to contact Lorraine Lancaster of this firm's Property Litigation Department on (01702) 338338 or by email llancaster@paulrobinson.co.uk