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Lords amendments back householders who face cladding bills for high-rise flats

04 March 2022


A block of flats in Southampton is covered in scaffolding as work takes place to replace unsafe cladding

A block of flats in Southampton is covered in scaffolding as work takes place to replace unsafe cladding

CAMPAIGNERS on behalf of householders facing huge bills for the replacement of inflammable cladding on their high-rise flats scored a tactical victory in the House of Lords last week with a series of amendments to a proposed building-safety law requiring those responsible for defective construction to pay for it to be rectified.

Three of the “Perpetrator Pays” amendments, as they are described, to the Building Safety Bill were proposed by a crossbench peer, the Earl of Lytton, who described them as “core, fundamental principles” in the legislation seeking to right the wrongs exposed by the disastrous Grenfell Tower fire in 2017.

Introducing the amendments to a grand committee in the Lords on Thursday of last week, he said: “My purpose is to make the developer strictly liable for demonstrable failures to meet the regulatory standards at the time of works. The problem we have here is one of weak claimant and powerful defendant, and it is that fundamental imbalance that prevents things such as acting against defective workmanship that may amount to unlawful activity. That is why we have to do something to redress that.”

He continued: “This is not anti-developer; my belief is that there are many conscientious developers, but a number of significant players have allowed standards to drop. It is those latter that I wish to single out and attach responsibility to.”

Lord Lytton’s proposals include an industry-funded fire hazard remediation scheme. He explained: “Leaseholders should not be responsible or liable for fire safety remediation costs. . . The taxpayer should not foot the bill, other than as an extremely limited last resort — and I mean extremely limited — for interim funding to get a remediation scheme in place, as bridging finance.”

The cost should fall on an industry “that allowed these practices, and what amounts to a gross breach of trust, to take root”.

He said that the volume of correspondence on the issue was the largest on any he had received in the Lords. “Even a former Australian state premier, Ted Baillieu, who now heads that state’s cladding taskforce, thinks this is a game-changer that it will look to as well. The eyes of many people in this country and elsewhere are on us.”

Campaigners are hoping that the Government will now incorporate the proposals for the Bill’s return to Parliament for its report stage later this year.

Steve Day, a leaseholder caught up in the cladding crisis, was prominent in devising the amendments. He said: “We have been working with Government behind the scenes for months. Things are going well. This is the pressure to get things done. The hope of the country rests on the Government doing the right thing, and putting responsibility for bad building on the shoulders of those responsible. There is nothing like full liability to focus the mind.”

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