Residents facing cladding bills despite government funding

Residents facing cladding bills despite government funding

‘HUNDREDS’ OF leaseholders across the UK living in high rise blocks with combustible cladding are still facing bills reaching tens of thousands of pounds, despite a £200m government fund.

In May, the Ministry for Housing, Communities and Local Government (MHCLG) confirmed that £200m would be made available to ‘remove and replace’ ACM cladding from around 170 privately owned high rise buildings across the country, and ‘fully fund’ the process ‘where building owners have failed to do so’. It also said the funding pledge would ‘eliminat[e] excuses used by some building owners’, thereby ‘protecting leaseholders from the costs’.

The move was made after private building owners nationwide ‘failed to take action and tried to offload costs onto leaseholders’, and it ‘appreciates’ the work of both Grenfell United and UK Cladding Action Group (UKCAG), who have ‘prominently’ outlined the challenges of forcing private building owners to fund cladding replacement. Private developers and freeholders ‘have been too slow to act’, with leaseholders ‘threatened with significant, often unaffordable, costs resulting in delays’.

Its latest figures showed that 166 privately owned buildings had yet to start remedial works, compared to 23 in the social housing sector, and building owners – under this funding plan – would have three months to access the money, with the government to ‘look carefully at those who fail to remediate and consider what further action can be taken’.

In further detail on the funding, MHCLG stated that a condition of the funding would require building owners to ‘take reasonable steps to recover the costs from those responsible for the presence of the unsafe cladding’, while it pointed out that of the 176 privately owned high rise buildings identified as having ACM cladding, only 10 have completed work to replace the cladding.

Now however, Inside Housing has reported that hundreds of leaseholders in such blocks are ‘still facing bills of tens of thousands of pounds, after a UKCAG survey found that a number of ACM clad blocks nationwide will still see leaseholders ‘face crippling costs’ for replacement of cladding as well as to ‘resolve other fire safety issues’.

The news outlet added that of the 17 blocks referenced in the survey, half did not have ACM cladding, but instead had materials in cladding and insulation that both the fire and rescue services and fire safety experts ‘believe are dangerous and need to be removed’, with leaseholders collectively facing bills of up to £3m to remove the cladding on some of these buildings. This includes Burton Place in Manchester, clad in timber and combustible insulation.

Here, leaseholders will still have to pay for cladding removal, at around £80,000 per leaseholder in the development, with resident Natasha Foulkes commenting that ‘while we are pleased the government is doing something, it is not enough, and the fund does not help us in any way’. The survey also had responses from Ipswich, the West Midlands, Manchester, London and Sheffield, with nine ACM blocks cited and four others with different cladding and insulation types to be removed.

Despite these different types and the government’s own tests on different cladding combinations and materials, it has ‘been clear’ with residents of blocks with non ACM cladding that the funding will only cover the removal of ACM as it is ‘exceptional due to the high risk it poses as an accelerant of fire’.

The UKCAG survey also highlighted a ‘litany’ of other fire safety issues in these blocks, relating to fire doors, compartmentation and fire breaks, with 11 of the 17 surveyed reporting issues with ‘defective or missing’ fire breaks in cladding systems or other building sections. Seven buildings also reported compartmentation issues ‘that needed to be rectified’.

A MHCLG spokesperson said: ‘There is nothing more important than making sure people are safe in their homes and that’s why the government is committed to improving building safety. Following Dame Judith Hackitt’s report, we are working with leaders in the housing and construction industries to start making changes to improve safety within the sector.’