Housing Minister; Michael Gove did a series of news interviews this morning, announcing more help for leaseholders affected by the cladding crisis AND the wider fire safety issues. Companies “have until March” to shoulder their responsibilities for medium rise buildings, between 11 and 18 metres tall. He also announce additional funds and a proposal to claw back funds from developers and those “who made the cladding in the first place”.
The Government had previously been concentrating (very slowly) on buildings above 18 metres. This announcement brings into focus the many thousands of blocks that are below that level but still have cladding safety problems – and thus the leaseholders living there cannot sell or remortgage their properties.
Michael Gove also announced an additional £4 billion to help pay for the required works. He also said … “We want to say to developers and indeed all those who have a role to playing recognising their responsibility that we want to work with them”.
But, the minister added that he was also looking to introduce a developers’ tax and that he plans to restrict access to government funding if these firms do not come forward to cover the costs. He also suggested that he would not be afraid to follow up with legal action where appropriate.″If it’s the case that it’s necessary to do so, then we will use legal means and ultimately if necessary the tax system, in order to ensure those who have deep pockets, those who are responsible for the upkeep of these buildings pay, rather than the leaseholders, the individuals, who in the past were being asked to pay with money they didn’t have for a problem they did not cause.”
Clearly, Michael Gove has torn up his predecessor; Robert Jenrick’s plans to make leaseholders pay. Gove said: “Cladding is the first and most urgent, but there are other fire safety issues.”
His providing more help for leaseholders has been cautiously welcomed by “cladiators” but they have also pointed to the wider issue of ‘compartmentation’ and other fire safety defects in buildings. It is unclear whether today’s announcements will provide more help for leaseholders with these wider and more expensive costs.
Leasehold industry bodies, such as the Association of Residential Managing Agents, has previously welcomed Government funding – but pointed out that even with sufficient funding, there are too few contractors and too few resources to solve these problems within the next four or five years. Never the less, more help for leaseholders improves the situation.