The UK Government’s Building Safety Bill is back in the House of Commons today.
The UK Government has promised over and over again that leaseholders would not bear the cost of the building safety crisis, but the fact is many leaseholders will still have to pay, and without decisive Government action will pay more in future.
Labour have consistently called for the UK Government to legislate to ensure leaseholders are protected from the costs of remediating any historic cladding and non-cladding defects.
Our priority is to protect innocent homeowners. We will work with any MP to resolve this crisis, and continue to seek to amend the Building Safety Bill to give leaseholders the protections in law that have long been promised by the Government.
Homeowners, many of them first time buyers, are currently trapped in a perfect storm – in unsafe buildings because they can’t sell their homes, having been forced to pay thousands in remediation works through no fault of their own.
Any further measures that help resolve the building safety crisis are welcome but blameless leaseholders are being hit with bills right now. Labour have long been leading cross-bench calls to legally protect leaseholders from paying the cost of removing dangerous cladding.
However, the Government’s proposals appear far less significant than they sound:
- There is nothing new for the significant numbers of leaseholders facing huge bills to fix non-cladding defects;
- There is no help for the countless leaseholders currently mired in mortgage chaos;
- There is no change in the government’s position on leaseholder liability.
- The proposal to make developers pay £4bn for cladding removal in buildings under 18 meters is unclear how quickly developers will asked to pay, and what exact measures the government will take if they refuse.
- Without immediate compulsion on developers this process threatens to continue to be drawn out with leaseholders stuck in properties they cannot sell and leaves those leaseholders to pay their current bills.
- Buildings under 11 metres have been unfairly excluded from grant funding altogether;
- We can’t assume that developers will provide the full £4bn on a voluntary basis, and there is seemingly no legal obligation to do so through a new property developer levy.
- There is also no guarantee that the cost of remediating buildings under 18 metres won’t be drawn from already allocated public funding; meaning funds could be drawn away from house building into maintaining the current stock.
If the Tories are serious about doing the right thing, they need to ensure leaseholders are fully protected in law from the costs of fixing all historic defects by amending the government’s Building Safety Bill.
Government Ministers have promised on at least 17 occasions that leaseholders should be protected from ruinous fire safety costs, but time and time again their situation has got worse not better.
Labour is calling on the government to establish a new Building Works Agency, to get a grip of the extent of this crisis and bring down spiralling costs. This crack-team of building safety experts should go block by block, identifying which works need doing, fix, fund and crucially certify them as safe and sellable at the end, to allow leaseholders to finally move on with their lives.