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Leaseholders and social housing tenants must not foot bill for building safety works: MPs

Too many leaseholders will fall through the cracks of “piecemeal measures” taken to protect them from the costs of building safety remediation, MPs on the Levelling Up, Housing and Communities Committee have warned.

In its report Building Safety: Remediation and Funding the committee said the Government should scrap the proposed cap on non-cladding costs for leaseholders.

It also called for a comprehensive Building Safety Fund to cover the costs of remediating all building safety defects where the original builder cannot be traced.

This would apply to any buildings of any height, not just to tower blocks, and contributions would be required from all “who played a role in the building safety crisis”.

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Leaseholders would be compensated for costs already incurred, including increases in insurance premiums.

Labour MP Clive Betts, who chairs the committee, said: “Leaseholders should not be paying a penny to rectify faults not of their doing in order to make their homes safe.

“Nearly five years after the tragic Grenfell fire, it is shameful this situation is yet to be properly resolved.”

He welcomed measures proposed by Secretary of State Michael Gove but feared gaps remained which risked leaving leaseholders with high bills.

Mr Betts said: “Leaseholders are no more to blame for non-cladding defects than they are for faulty cladding on homes they bought in good faith.

“The Government should bring forward a comprehensive Building Safety Fund, or upgrade their existing funding plans, to ensure that the costs of remediating all building safety defects on buildings where the original ‘polluter’ cannot be traced are covered and that leaseholders are also compensated for costs they have already paid out.”

He said this should extend beyond developers and construction products manufacturers to include product suppliers, installers, contractors and sub-contractors. Insurers would also be required to contribute towards remediation.

The committee said though that funds should not be diverted from social housing construction and maintenance to pay for building safety.

MPs were critical of Government attempts to estimate the number of affected building and the costs of rectifying defects.

The report said: “The Government’s publicly available data on building safety provides, at best, a partial picture: it covers only cladding defects and only on buildings 18m and above, and it does not capture any buildings for which an application is not made, for example because the original developer has chosen to take on the costs of remediation.”

Estimates put the cost of remediating cladding on buildings 18m and above at £5.1bn, and £4bn to remediate those 11–18m high.

“We are baffled, then, that hardly anyone seems to be able to share with us the calculations that they have made of the number of buildings affected, or by building height or type of defect,” the report said.

“It is completely unacceptable that, nearly five years after the Grenfell tragedy, the Government still does not seem to know how many buildings have unsafe cladding or other historic building safety defects.”

Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, which represents social landlords, said: “Like the committee, the National Housing Federation and our members agree that leaseholders need to be protected from costs, and that the impacts of the building safety crisis must not fall on social renters.

“If not-for-profit housing associations are wrongly left to pick up the bill, this will mean diverting funds away from services for tenants and building new homes.”

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities did not respond to a request for comment.

Mark Smulian

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