Following the devastating Grenfell Tower blaze in June last year, which claimed 71 lives, the debate about who is responsible for paying for fire safety works on blocks of flats is the subject of a new paper released by the House of Commons Library.
After the tragedy, the Government established a Building Safety Programme, “ensuring that residents of high-rise residential buildings are safe, and feel safe from the risk of fire, now and in the future.”
By 16 February 2018, 288 residential blocks in England were identified as having Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding – which is the same or similar type to that applied to Grenfell Tower.
With these flats being described as “unlikely to meet current Building Regulation guidance”, the costs of remediation are expected to be significant.
So, who should pay for these works?
As we reported in January, residents of the privately-owned London tower block Citiscape in Croydon - which was identified as having the same cladding as Grenfell Tower - may be forced to pay between £13,300 and £31,300 each for replacement panels up to £2m.
The Residential Landlords Association (RLA) says the issue rests on the terms and conditions of the leasehold, but that it is unfair that flat owners should have to foot the bill when they were in no way involved in decisions surrounding the building’s cladding: “The freeholder is the responsible person for dealing with fire safety matters.
“However, where there is an appropriate agreement they can pass this cost to their tenants, especially in the long leases associated with flat ownership.
“This is an area the RLA has been concerned about and has asked the Government to consider.
“It seems unjust that flat owners should be asked to pay large sums of money to correct cladding which is not fire safe and we would expect freeholders to consider whether the advice they received, and the work done was appropriate to begin with.
“They should then seek recompense from contractors or advisors who have made mistakes rather than expecting the owners of flats to pay.”
The RLA recommends that affected long leaseholders seek professional legal advice and assistance. They have also issued guidance on fire safety in individual flats, which owners of apartments or purpose built flats may find useful.