Building safety and cladding - positive progress but more detail needed

In the months following his appointment last September to the Department for Levelling Up Housing and Communities, Michael Gove MP took stock of key building safety and cladding issues.

It was not until the new year that we saw the detail of Mr. Gove's plans, which came in two separate announcements. 

Firstly, a major statement in the House of Commons in January marked a reset of the government's approach to building safety and remediation of mid-rise buildings. 

Then on 14 February, government amendments to the Building Safety Bill proposed a legal guarantee that leaseholders would not have to pay to fix dangerous cladding; and that the costs of other defects would be funded by developers and freeholders. Leaseholders will only have to pay as a last resort, with any costs to them capped.

Together, these announcements underpin a proportionate response to risk; a tough approach to hold developers and product manufacturers to account; and a commitment to protect leaseholders.

Alongside the January announcement, the government published its first analysis report of data provided by seven major lenders on their use of the EWS1 process. The analysis confirms that lenders are being proportionate and using EWS1 for mortgage valuations in fewer than one in ten cases.

Although the new approach is welcomed, there are still missing pieces in the jigsaw of building safety issues.

The lack of support for flat owners in low-rise buildings continues, despite known issues with their safety and construction. While leaseholders would not have to pay to fix cladding, they still could face costs for other defects. 

Some leaseholders are currently excluded, for example those with buy-to-let mortgages. Likewise, caps on other costs would not apply to landlords owning more than one flat, in addition to their main home.

Clarity is needed on the 14 February ?effective date? of the new protections and how these apply to existing owners and new purchasers.

Overall the government's current approach, compared with that in February 2021, is transformed for the better. There is much to welcome in the recent announcements, but the devil remains in the detail.

As the government amendments are scrutinised in parliament, it will be important to ensure the remaining pieces of the jigsaw are found and slotted into place. 

We will continue to engage with government and key stakeholders to deliver solutions and closure on building safety issues that have plagued flat owners, who bought their properties in good faith, for too long.


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