UK government: leaseholders won’t have to pay for fire risk repairs.

UK government: leaseholders won’t have to pay for fire risk repairs.

Leaseholders will be protected against any undue charge for fire risk.

New legislation will protect leaseholders from the costs of all post-Grenfell building safety defects, not just combustible cladding, the government has said.

The secretary of state for levelling up, housing and communities, Michael Gove, told parliament the government would give leaseholders statutory protection that extends to all works required to make buildings safe. The move followed anger at reports that officials were only planning to force developers and materials manufacturers to pay to replace combustible cladding on buildings taller than 11 metres.

As about £1.3bn was wiped off the stock market valuations of the UK’s major housebuilders, Gove insisted he had the backing of the chancellor, Rishi Sunak, to threaten developers with tax rises if they don’t pay £4bn to fix the defective buildings that are blighting tens of thousands of households in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

Lisa Nandy, the shadow housing secretary, questioned whether this would be sufficient. “What makes him think he can force developers, who for four years have refused to do the right thing, to pay up?” she asked in the Commons. “Has the chancellor agreed to back a new tax measure if negotiations fail, or is he prepared to see his own already allocated budget, levelling-up funding or monies for affordable or social housing raided?”

Gove replied: “We do have absolute assurance that we can use the prospect of taxation in order to bring people to the table.”

However, a leaked letter from the Treasury to Gove insisted that new or increased taxes were “not a given at this point”. Nandy suggested that would weaken the government’s hand against developers.

The End Our Cladding Scandal campaign group, which represents affected leaseholders, said: “Rishi Sunak still does not appear to understand the gravity of our situation and is seemingly doing all he can to evade ensuring homeowners are protected.”

Gove also said he was unable to give any guarantees that people who have already paid to fix their homes would receive retrospective compensation.

Nevertheless, Gove’s statement represented a marked shift of tone by the government in tackling the building safety crisis. It announced it would scrap a plan to loan money to leaseholders in medium-rise buildings between 11 and 18 metres in height with fire safety defects. It will also scrap advice that all wall systems need to be checked for fire safety.

“Medium-rise buildings are safe, unless there is clear evidence to the contrary,” Gove said. “Those who knowingly put lives at risk should be held to account for their crimes.”

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