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‘Stressed and petrified’ cladding campaigners call on peers to protect them from huge repair costs

Grenfell Tower

Cladding action groups are calling for peers to protect leaseholders from footing repair bills as the Fire Safety Bill returns to the Lords.

Campaigners hope the House of Lords will vote in favour of amendments preventing building owners passing the cost of cladding remediation bills to leaseholders on 20 April.

The tragedy of the Grenfell Tower fire led to a cladding scandal that revealed millions of people are living in unsafe buildings. Many have received large repair bills from landlords and building owners.

Previous attempts to protect residents from paying large repair bills have been unsuccessful.

Protecting leaseholders

The Fire Safety Bill was first introduced in the Commons in 2020. It intended to clarify who was responsible for flammable cladding and discuss action that could be taken.

On 17 March, the House of Lords voted in favour of amending the bill to ban building owners from passing on costs of remedial work to tenants and leaseholders. The Bishop of St Albans put the amendment forward.

On 22 March, the government voted down the amendment in the House of Commons after already having rejected similar amendments.

Cladding campaigners are urging peers to continue to vote in favour of amendments, with resident Georgie Hulme saying:

Stressed and petrified leaseholders like myself hope that those who sit in the Lords will support us against paying huge costs for historical fire safety defects. This has [bankrupted] people and will continue to do so.

She added:

No funding, partial funding, or forced government loans are by no means enough if the government are truly sincere in ending the building safety crisis.

Astronomical costs

After an investigation into flammable cladding in the UK, many leaseholders were hit with large bills charging them for the removal of the cladding. In some cases, these costs were so astronomical they left leaseholders bankrupt.

The government has implemented a building safety fund of £5.1bn to aid with cladding repairs. However, cladding campaign groups say this is not enough, urging proper protection.

In Hulme’s case, her building is not eligible for the fund because it’s less than 18 metres tall, which could mean she’s forced to resort to a loan backed by the government to pay for repairs. Hulme feared she wouldn’t be able to access the money needed.

The extent of the danger

Labour Party analysis estimated that 11 million people around the UK could be living in homes with unsafe cladding.

Meanwhile, Inside Housing reported that three-quarters of cladding systems on new medium-rise builds use combustible materials.

The Grenfell Tower fire in 2017 killed 72 people. Since then, campaigners have urged the government to ensure the tragedy will never be repeated.

Featured image via Wikimedia Commons/ChiralJon

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