I wanted to take this opportunity to update you on the cladding scandal and the associated issues with the EWS1 form.
First, you may have seen the news today that the deadline to apply for the Building Safety Fund has been extended to 30 June 2021. I know that several blocks I have been assisting were very concerned that their Property Managers were not going to meet this deadline so this is welcome news. I asked the Government to do just this on 3rd December, so I am pleased they have listened.
Second, a waking watch fund has also been set up. It not enough but a positive move by the government to accept that leaseholders should not have to pay the costs of the cladding crisis. There is more information about this here.
When we return after Christmas, there are two key legislative developments to focus on. The first is the Fire Safety Bill will be returning from the House of Lords. I will write to you again with an update on the Bill and amendments when they are available.
The second development is the introduction of the Building Safety Bill, which is expected on the floor of the House in the New Year. This Bill has just completed its pre-legislative scrutiny phase by the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee and received scathing reviews, particularly around the Building Safety charge it seeks to introduce. Below are several particularly pertinent recommendations of the Committee. As you can see, the Committee’s conclusions are entirely in line with our campaign:
“We continue to believe that residents should not bear any of the costs of remediating historical building safety defects and are deeply concerned by the Government’s failure to protect them from these costs. We are especially disturbed by its commitment to protecting them only from “unaffordable costs”. It would be unacceptable and an abdication of responsibility to make them contribute a single penny towards the cost of remediating defects for which they were not responsible.
The Government must recommit to the principle that leaseholders should not pay anything towards the cost of remediating historical building safety defects, and, in order to provide leaseholders with the peace of mind they deserve, amend the Bill to explicitly exclude historical costs from the building safety charge…
… It seems self-evident that responsibility for funding remediation works lies jointly with the industry and the Government. Whilst we welcome the assurances that the Government is looking at potential financing options for recovering costs, in the short term we see no alternative to the Government itself, and therefore the taxpayer, footing much of the bill. We can think of no other means by which the necessary works can be carried out quickly enough.
On the ESW1 form issue, I fully share the frustration of many constituents on this and have raised it with Labour’s Shadow Housing team, who in turn wrote the Government. As I have said before, what began as a well intentioned initiative aimed at improving building safety after Grenfell has unnecessarily turned into a nightmare for many leaseholders. I raised the issue in my submission to the pre-legislative scrutiny phase of the Bill, and two weeks ago I met with The Association of Residential Managing Agents and Institute of Residential Property Management (IRPM) where we discussed the issue at length and explored a number of possible solutions that would satisfy both the Government and lenders.
There are signs the Government might be listening, with them announcing a few weeks ago that owners of flats in buildings without cladding will no longer need an EWS1 form to sell or re-mortgage their property. You can read more about this here. While a lot more needs to be done, it is a good start.
In the meantime, I am happy to assist your individual block in any way I can, so please do contact my office if you would like me to write to Freeholders or Property Managers. I have already engaged with many blocks and their associated building owners and managers across Wandsworth.