Greenwich residents consider class action over cladding

Greenwich residents consider class action over cladding

Homeowners in New Capital Quay are considering legal action against developers Galliard Homes over combustible cladding replacement costs.

Earlier this year, the complex was found to have ‘multiple’ fire safety issues. The 11 blocks are home to around 2,000 people, and ‘more than a dozen’ concerns were identified, not including that the buildings are clad with panel combinations that failed the government’s fire safety tests. A deficiency notice was issued by the London Fire and Emergency Planning Authority (LFEPA), which discovered defective fire doors, missing fire stopping, ‘dangerous’ fire escapes and holes in plasterboard meant to act as compartmentation to ‘stop the spread of flames and smoke’.

In total it identified 16 fire safety concerns, including a ‘lack of arrangements’ for evacuating vulnerable and elderly residents. An ‘ineffective maintenance regime’, broken firefighting lift and fire hydrant were also mentioned, LFEPA stating that ‘procedures to be followed in the event of serious and imminent danger to relevant persons are inadequate’, while 30 fire marshals continue to patrol 24 hours a day at a cost of £25,000 per week.

Galliard Homes, which owns the site, responded that some defects ‘had been addressed’, and that there had been ‘no issue with missing fire-stopping material, just an error during the inspection’. Residents were worried they would have to pay the estimated £20m to £40m bill, or around £20,000 to £40,000 per flat, while they also faced a £1.25m bill for the ‘round-the-clock’ fire warden patrols.

The company planned to sue the National House Building Council (NHBC) over ‘who pays for cladding that was certified as compliant with building regulations at the time of installation’, but have since ‘been deemed to have failed fire safety rules’. Most recently, one resident in the complex stated that she had discovered her flat’s value had fallen from £475,000 to £50,000 as a result.

BBC News has now reported on the residents’ potential class action against Galliard Homes, with home owners Nigel Pickford and Annabel Parsons ‘part of a group of up to six people obtaining legal advice’ against the company as well as the NHBC ‘in the event that they wrongly deny cover’. Claims would be based on breach of contract ‘under which reasonable care and proper materials should have guaranteed, breach of building regulations, under which dwellings should be fit for habitation’.

Chris Haan, advising solicitor, stated that ‘there is a question mark that a building requiring 24-hour safety watch is fit for habitation’, and added that the case would also look at ‘whether, even if the cladding met building regulations, it was reasonably fit for purpose and of good quality’. Mr Pickford said damages could be sought for ‘inability to sell and distress caused’, while Ms Parsons believes that ‘at least 200 residents could be mobilised’ for a class action.

She added that she was ‘absolutely furious’, and that the government should ‘step in and take action to ensure buildings are safe’. In response Galliard Homes said it had paid a £1m premium for a 10 year insurance policy, while NHBC said it had received a claim related to cladding ‘but was currently determining its validity and establishing building regulations were complied with’.

Despite NHBC acting as approved inspector, assisting Galliard Homes and its subsidiaries ‘in achieving compliance with’ building regulations and guidance throughout the building process, it said that the legal responsibly for ensuring the complex complies with regulations ‘falls on’ Galliard Homes.

Earlier today, Barratt Homes announced it will pay the £2m bill to replace cladding at the Citiscape development in Croydon.