On the 24th February, the Fire Safety Bill returned to the Commons. An amendment that would have protected all flat owners from the costs of fixing historic fire safety defects, and backed by over 30 Conservative MPs, was blocked from being voted on by the government. However, the Bill now returns to the Lords where it is expected further amendments will be tabled again to protect flat owners from the costs. https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-9297633/MPs-fury-ministers-dodge-cladding-vote.html
To: Robert Jenrick (Secretary of State for Housing, Communities and Local Government), Rishi Sunak (Chancellor of the Exchequer) and the UK Government
End Our National Cladding Scandal
Protect flat owners from the costs of fixing cladding and unsafe buildings.
Why is this important?
**Update 11 Feb 2020 - Robert Jenrick yesterday announced an extra £3.5 billion in funding to fix cladding in high-rise buildings, but this does not go nearly far enough. In a move that has angered many, no funding was announced for fixing other fire safety defects or for buildings under 18m. An estimated 70% of buildings with unsafe cladding also have other fire safety defects, meaning flat owners in high-rise buildings will still have to pay to fix these with average bills of £25,000. Only long-term loans were offered for buildings under 18m leaving them to pay all costs. This will saddle these flats with debts for decades, make them unsellable and could push flat owners into negative equity.**
Up to 11 million flat owners in the UK are now potentially living in unsafe buildings. Since the fire at Grenfell in June 2017 in which 72 people lost their lives, it has become clear thousands of buildings across the UK are fire traps, due to flammable cladding and other serious fire safety defects.
These buildings should never have been built like this. A culture of corner cutting from the construction industry, alongside regulatory failure are to blame.
Flat owners are facing unimaginable bills in the tens of thousands of pounds - some over £100,000 each - to fix unsafe buildings, despite them not being at fault. Flat owners live in constant fear of fires in their buildings. Their homes are so dangerous many require 24/7 fire patrols known as “waking watch”. These can cost up to £15,000 a week, alongside flat owners seeing astronomical insurance hikes. Until their buildings are fixed, they cannot sell or remortgage.
Hayley, a first-time buyer, bought her flat in Leeds at 27. At 28 she went bankrupt due to the crisis. Hayley will not be the only one to go bankrupt - thousands, if not millions, more will go bankrupt too. All this is seriously impacting mental health.
“I struggle each day to keep myself alive due to the financial worries of ending up homeless and bankrupt.” [UK Cladding Action Group, Mental Health Survey]
The government must protect all flat owners from the costs of fixing unsafe buildings, no matter the height of those buildings. The problems now stretch well beyond cladding to other defects like missing fire breaks and flammable insulation. The vast majority of flat owners are leaseholders, meaning they do not own their buildings, but just lease them. Archaic laws mean all costs can be passed onto them by the building owner.
The government must make the money available upfront so buildings can be made safe quickly, and then work to recoup the money from those who were responsible.
Millions of other flat owners cannot move home as they await surveys to know if their building is safe, seriously affecting the housing market. 86% of surveys to date have shown work is needed as buildings are unsafe - at cost to flat owners
Funding to date has been entirely inadequate, with just a fraction of the estimated £15 billion needed having been made available.
Flat owners must not be forced to pay, both financially and mentally, for others’ mistakes.