MICHAEL GOVE, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, has announced a guarantee that no leaseholder living in their own flat will have to pay to fix unsafe cladding.

Speaking on 10 January Mr. Gove said: “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.”

Responding to the announcement, Cllr David Renard, housing spokesperson for the Local Government Association, said: “No leaseholder should have to pay the costs of making their homes safe and the Secretary of State’s threat to use the legal system to ensure developers meet their responsibilities to leaseholders is a positive step in the right direction. However, leaseholders are not the only innocent victims of the construction industry’s failure to build safe homes.

“The construction industry must also be made to fix the fire safety defects it has built into blocks owned by councils and housing associations. Unless the Government forces the industry to act – or provides taxpayer funding – we are concerned that the costs of fixing social housing blocks will fall on council housing revenue accounts and housing associations.

“This will reduce the funding available to meet the Government’s ambitions for improvements to social housing, net zero and the provision of new social housing, leaving tenants and those on the waiting list to suffer the consequences of decades of industry failure and poor regulation. Like leaseholders, council tenants and those on the waiting list are innocent victims and the Government needs to help them too.”

The Fire Brigades Union also welcomed Mr Gove’s announcement, but pointed out that it does not cover other building safety defects, and existing funding does not cover these issues in buildings over 18 metres  in height. Issues with defective fire doors, internal compartmentation, wooden balconies or other construction defects have rendered many buildings unsafe.

Matt Wrack, General Secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, said: “This is a result of determined campaigning by leaseholders and tenants. It shows that the government can be pressured into progress, and we commend the efforts of campaigners.

“We have always been clear here – residents should not carry any cost for failure they did not cause. Developers, suppliers and buildings owners are responsible, and they should pay.

“However, this announcement does leave us with cause for concern. This change does not cover all fire safety failings in buildings of this height. Over four years after Grenfell, this means that residents are left desperately short of where they need to be.

“Government failures allowed this to happen – they cannot shirk their responsibility. The FBU stands in solidarity with all victims of the building safety crisis.”

* Read Michael Gove’s announcement here.

* Sources: Local Government Association, Fire Brigades Union, Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

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