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Following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017, the Government established a Building Safety Programme with the aim of “ensuring that residents of high-rise residential buildings are safe, and feel safe from the risk of fire, now and in the future.”

Remediation work is complex, and the associated costs are significant. The full cost of fire safety remediation work on all affected blocks has been estimated at around £15 billion. Government funding announced to date amounts to £5.1 billion. The question of who’s responsible for paying for this work amounts to a ‘legal quagmire’ and is at the forefront of debate about how quickly the work can be carried out and the financial implications for long leaseholders.

Funding to remove ACM cladding

In the aftermath of Grenfell, the Government said building owners should take responsibility for funding fire safety measures, including the replacement of dangerous cladding.

Almost one year later, on 16 May 2018 the Government said it would meet the reasonable cost of the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding by councils and housing associations.

Not all developers/freeholders responded positively to calls to protect individual leaseholders in private blocks from the cost of remediation work. Almost two years after Grenfell, on 9 May 2019 James Brokenshire, then-Secretary of State at the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG), said the Government “will fully fund the replacement of unsafe aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding on high-rise private residential properties where building owners have failed to do so.

The expectation was that ACM cladding would be removed by June 2020 in all but exceptional cases. The current ambition is for ACM cladding to be removed from all high-rise blocks by the end of 2021.

Funding to remove non-ACM combustible cladding

In the March 2020 Budget, the Government said it would provide £1 billion in 2020 to 2021 “to support the remediation of unsafe non-ACM cladding systems on residential buildings 18 metres and over in both the private and social housing sectors.”

The registration process for the Building Safety Fund opened on 1 June and closed on 31 July 2020. The deadline for submitting funding applications was extended 30 June 2021. Further flexibilities will be considered on a case-by-case basis.

Additional funding for cladding removal February 2021

On 10 February 2021, Robert Jenrick announced additional funding of £3.5 billion for the removal of combustible cladding on high rise blocks of 18 metres and over. Information on how the additional funding will work alongside the existing funds is expected “soon.”

For cladding removal on blocks of between 11 and 18 metres, the Government is developing a long-term low-interest loan scheme under which “no leaseholder will ever pay more than £50 a month towards the removal of unsafe cladding.” The legislative framework for the scheme was expected to be included in the Building Safety Bill. The Bill was presented on 5 July 2021. As currently drafted it does not include provision for this scheme.

Ongoing issues

The Housing, Communities and Local Government (HCLG) Select Committee considered cladding and fire safety work in its June 2020 report Cladding: progress of remediation, during its pre-legislative scrutiny work on the draft Building Safety Bill (November 2020), and in its follow-up report on cladding remediation (April 2021). The National Audit Office (NAO) and Public Accounts Committee (PAC) also published reports in 2020. Concerns raised span the following areas:

  • The slow pace of remediation work, particularly in privately owned blocks.
  • The lack of information on the number of blocks with unsafe non-ACM cladding.
  • The adequacy of Government funding. The PAC (September 2020) said “The Department is not fully funding the replacement of forms of dangerous cladding which are different from that used on Grenfell Tower.” The HCLG Committee was critical of the shift in emphasis from it being unacceptable for leaseholders to pay for remediation of historical safety defects, to a suggestion that leaseholders should be protected from unaffordable costs. The Committee called for the long-term low-interest loan scheme to be dropped and for a Comprehensive Building Safety Fund to cover necessary work on all blocks.
  • Exclusions from the Building Safety Fund for non-ACM cladding removal.
  • The lack of assistance for other fire safety defects and interim measures (e.g. waking watch costs).
  • The lack of assistance for blocks under 11 metres in height.
  • The implications of a new Building Safety Charge in the Building Safety Bill.
  • The impact on leaseholders who are facing rising costs and are unable to sell their homes. The Committee has described the physical and mental toll on affected leaseholders as representing a public health crisis.

The Government response to the HCLG Committee’s June 2020 report (September 2020) made clear the expectation that building owners should bear some of the cost of making their buildings safe:

The Government is clear and unwavering in its view that it is unacceptable for leaseholders to have to worry about the cost of fixing historic safety defects in their buildings that they didn’t cause.

The response to the Committee’s April 2021 follow-up report was due by 29 June 2021.

Affected long leaseholders should seek professional legal advice and assistance. The Leasehold Advisory Service and the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership (which also acts as the secretariat for the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on leasehold reform) are potential sources of advice. The LKP has a dedicated email address: cladding@leaseholdknowledge.com


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