With almost 1.3 million households affected by dangerous cladding and the exorbitant costs of fixing it, the cladding crisis is one of the key issues facing flat owners today.
After the tragic Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, it became clear that hundreds of buildings were covered in the same flammable cladding and insulation used on the tower.
Since then, tests have shown that a much wider range of cladding types are dangerous, meaning at least 1,700 buildings over 18-metres tall are affected, according to government estimates.
It is clear that cladding defects must be swiftly remediated to prevent another tragedy – we have already seen several major fires in residential buildings since 2017.
Progress, however, has been slower than anticipated, with enormous costs associated with addressing fire safety defects.
At the centre of the current cladding crisis is a fierce debate over who will cover these costs.
More than 95 per cent of the buildings within the Government’s remediation programme are flats, where individual flat owners, as leaseholders, are likely to have ‘legal’ responsibility for meeting the costs of cladding remediation. This is having an extreme financial and emotional impact, with nine out of 10 residents reporting worsening mental health as a result of safety concerns and financial pressures.
The Government has previously stated its commitment to ensuring that leaseholders will not pay for fixing historic fire safety defects.
The LGA and others have successfully lobbied government to back this with a total of £1.7 billion of funding for the remediation of unsafe cladding on high-rise buildings, intended to speed up works and protect leaseholders from costs.
“At the centre of the current cladding crisis is a fierce debate over who will cover these costs”
More recently, the Government has also responded to our calls for funding to cover the cost of interim fire safety measures, which are required in buildings awaiting cladding removal. The £30 million Waking Watch Relief Fund, announced in December, should reduce the need for the most expensive measures, including nightly patrols, which can cost between £12,000 and £45,000 per week per building.
However, this still might not be enough; the Government itself estimates that the total costs of remediation for the 1,700 buildings affected will be up to £3.5 billion.
What’s more, a second issue has emerged. Leaseholders have found that mortgage lenders will not lend on flats without proof that the cladding is safe, regardless of height.
The industry has devised a process for lenders’ surveyors to inspect buildings, known as the External Wall Systems (EWS1) survey. But with thousands of buildings within scope, it has been subject to lengthy delays because of a lack of available surveyors.
This is not an easy issue to resolve. Nevertheless, councillors play a vital role in supporting residents who have been affected by these issues.
As the link between your council and your community, you can work with residents to understand their concerns, lobby building owners to drive action, and encourage your council to take more steps to support residents – especially council residents.
In the LGA’s recent briefing, we explain the cladding crisis in detail, set out the role of the council in building safety, and provide ‘top tips’ on how ward councillors can support their residents to manage and respond to building safety issues.
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