A plan to protect leaseholders from the spiralling costs of fixing fire safety problems in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy has been rejected in parliament after the Government headed off a cross-party challenge.
Hundreds of thousands of homeowners are facing bills of up to £100,000 to repair unsafe cladding, fire doors and insulation systems found after the 14 June 2017 fire, but ministers rejected proposals from the House of Lords, Labour and some Conservative backbenchers to protect them from costs.
Amendments to the fire safety bill were defeated in a Commons vote on Wednesday evening after Labour accused the Government of moving at a snail’s pace to tackle the problem.
It warned that 11 million people may be affected by both immediate fire hazards and problems with insurance and certification, making many homes unsaleable.
The bill is the first piece of primary legislation introduced as a consequence of the Grenfell tragedy, which occurred four years ago this June.
Also defeated was a motion to force the Government to implement key recommendations from the Grenfell Tower inquiry including making owners tell fire brigades what materials are in-wall systems, inspect fire doors yearly and lifts monthly, all things that failed during the Grenfell fire, which took 72 lives.
Earlier this month the Government announced a £3.5 billion extension of the fund to pay to remove faulty cladding on buildings over the height of 18 metres, but it only offered loans for fixing those below 18 metres and nothing for other widespread defects such as missing firebreaks and faulty fire doors or paying for 24-hour fire patrols and steep insurance premium hikes.
Sarah Jones, the shadow police and fire minister, told parliament she’d heard from first hand (from leaseholders) the horrors the Government is wilfully enabling by not protecting them from costs.
Some have seen yearly insurance costs for their blocks rise from £30,000 to £500,000, while one block with 56 leaseholders in Kent has already paid more than £500,000 for 24-hour fire warden patrols.
Julie Fraser, who faces a bill of up to £40,000 on a flat she purchased in Runcorn, Cheshire, for £75,000, said that it was dreadful, and that she doesn’t have another £400,000 to throw at a building, and that she might as well go bankrupt.
It doesn’t seem fair to ask the public to finance the costs. Could you imagine asking a council tenant, unable to afford getting onto the housing ladder, to compensate for the unexpected expenses incurred on someone else’s home purchase?
Having said that, it’s not fair for leaseholders to foot this bill either. Although I’m not sure what the solution is, it’s a crummy deal for everyone, except the housebuilders, of course, they seem to be minted.
Perhaps whoever put them up should foot the bill, and how can any of these MPs live with themselves, or sleep at night – it’s shameful and morally repugnant.
Building firms and developers should be accountable for putting these buildings right because the manufacturers of the panels were shown to be culpable, and it’s sickening that Government regulations didn’t protect all these people in the first place, and of course, now they won’t foot the bill.
This is very frustrating, and if it weren’t for COVID this would be much bigger news, and how much longer are the people of this country going to put up with the Tories defecating on them from a great height?
The developers of the flat should be held accountable for the cladding as they’re the ones that built the flats in the first place, and fire safety is not fit for purpose.
Flat owners shouldn’t be held accountable for any costs for a historical issue and it’s not right that both the developers for this kind of cladding, the authorities who agreed on it, and the manufacturers who made the product that was not fit for purpose aren’t taking any responsibility.