The government has released more details about how it plans to help the 500,000 leaseholders trapped by the cladding crisis to sell their homes.
These home owners have been hidebound by both the huge remediation costs but also surveying guidance which has made it difficult and often impossible for lenders to grant mortgages for these leasehold properties or remortgage them.
As we reported yesterday, housing secretary Michael Gove has revealed plans to force developers to spend £4 billion remediating the cladding on hundreds of tower blocks over 11 metres tall.
But now the government has published its proposals to remove the other obstacles faced by leaseholders caught up in the crisis.
The key to this will be ‘restoring common sense to building assessments’.
This will include indemnifying building assessors from being sued and withdrawing the old, misinterpreted government advice that prompted too many buildings being declared as unsafe – better known as the ESW1 forms.
Gove also says his department wants to see fewer unnecessary surveys, an assumption that there is no risk to life in medium and low-rise buildings unless clear evidence of the contrary, and far greater use of sensible, risk-mitigating fire safety measures such as sprinklers and alarms.
There will also be other reassurances including new protections for leaseholders living in their own flats with no bills for fixing unsafe cladding and new statutory protections for leaseholders within the Building Safety Bill.
“More than four years after the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the system is broken,” says Gove.
“Leaseholders are trapped, unable to sell their homes and facing vast bills. From today, we are bringing this scandal to an end – protecting leaseholders and making industry pay.”
Other measures include £27 million to install fire alarms in high-risk buildings and end the need for expensive ‘waking watches’; greater protections overall for leaseholders in law and help for those who bought properties via a Shared Ownership scheme.
Jeremy Raj, national head of Residential Property at legal firm Irwin Mitchell says: “The sentiments and ambition of Mr Gove’s statement today were praiseworthy and long overdue. The realities of his proposals are, however, as yet of questionable efficacy and breadth.
“The cladding on Grenfell had nothing to do with current or historic developers of new build homes, having been retro-fitted many years after the original build, using materials that were clearly dangerous that seem to have been ignored or waved through by the regulatory authorities.”
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union, adds: “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.”