On 10 January 2022, the Housing Secretary set out the government’s plan to ‘reset its approach to building safety with a bold new plan to protect leaseholders and make wealthy developers and companies pay to fix the cladding crisis’. Michael Gove guaranteed that no leaseholder will have to pay to fix unsafe cladding.
The government proposed a 4-point plan to ‘reset’ its approach:
- Begin the next phase of Building Safety Fund by prioritising the government’s £5.1 billion funding plan;
- Ensure those at fault will be held properly accountable and pursue companies at fault to fix the buildings they built and face commercial consequences if they refuse;
- Protect building assessors from being sued and withdraw the original government advice that prompted too many buildings to be declared as unsafe;
- Introduce new protections for leaseholders living in their own flats, including no bills to fix unsafe cladding and statutory protections.
This new ‘reset’ plan is intended to assist the remediation of unsafe cladding on buildings between 11 metres and 18 metres in height, known as ‘medium-rise’ buildings.
Buildings of 18 metres and above are subject to existing policies and buildings of less than 11 metres high, that have been declared unsafe, currently do not have a proposed solution from the government.
The government have not yet released a full eligibility criterion and so there is a suggestion that not all buildings under the ‘medium-rise’ category will qualify and only provide a solution for some leaseholders, much like previous policies.
This plan proposes to increase the funds available for common alarm systems, reissue advice on building safety assessments and enter into discussions with the insurance sector to reduce insurance premiums on unsafe buildings. This announcement sets out an intention to negotiate with developers and ask them to make financial contributions to cover the full outstanding costs for remediation of unsafe cladding on ‘medium-rise’ buildings. However, leaseholders will not be compensated if they have already paid for remediation costs or interim safety measures. This new protection will only cover outstanding costs of remediation.
This new plan will apply to ‘unsafe cladding’ only and, therefore, fail to change the position on non-cladding related fire safety issues including flammable balconies, missing cavity barriers, missing fire breaks and faulty fire doors. This latest announcement has not introduced any new legislation or provided a timetable for any legislative changes of how to assist the remediation of unsafe cladding on buildings of all heights. This plan pays no focus on wider fire safety issues, meaning it is still the requirement for leaseholders to cover any related cost.
Leaseholders of buildings less than 11 metres high are left with only hope that the government’s new advice on building safety assessment will encourage lenders to relax their position and return to lending on such properties.
This announcement does not signal an end to External Wall Safety (EWS1) Forms or encourage buyers that such assessments are not required. It also does not clarify any interpretation to building owners, lenders and future buyers as to when EWS1 Forms are required.
The Housing Secretary has proposed that by early March 2022, he hopes to have agreed a fully funded plan of action to remediate unsafe cladding on buildings between 11-18 metres high. For now, leaseholders remain liable to foot the bill for interim safety measures.
Should have any queries regarding unsafe cladding, other fire safety issues, EWS1 Forms or otherwise, you should contact Lorraine Lancaster on 01702 662963 (Essex) 020 35537115 (London) or by using the contact form below.