Flat owners urge new housing secretary to solve cladding scandal

Flat owners urge new housing secretary to solve the cladding crisis following progress by Michael Gove in fighting their corner

  • Flat owners are calling for more progress to solve the cladding crisis
  • Former housing secretary Michael Gove made building owners pay for defects
  • Leaseholders say new housing secretary Greg Clark must not halt progress

Cladding-hit flat owners are hoping that the new housing secretary will continue the progress of his predecessor, Michael Gove, in helping to resolve the cladding scandal.

That part of the housing market was paralysed following the Grenfell fire, as lenders refused to lend on cladding-hit properties, leaving flat owners in dangerous homes that they were unable to sell.

The former housing secretary Mr Gove has been widely praised for his progress in getting developers – rather than flat owners – to pay for fire safety defects.

It is hoped that Greg Clark, who has now stepped into the Government role, will be as effective as Mr Gove in making sure building owners pay for any remediation works.

Flat owner Natalie Carter (pictured) s calling for reassurance from Greg Clark, the new Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities

Flat owner Natalie Carter explained: ‘Leaseholders urgently need reassurance from Greg Clark that the work Gove was doing to challenge developers to commit to paying for building safety remediation will continue.

‘While imperfect and not leaseholders yet protected, Gove made more progress than any other minister to date.

‘This work must continue. And we will be looking for a commitment to works towards abolishment of leasehold and implementation of commonhold.’

Greg Clark steps into the role following the sacking of Michael Gove, just before Boris Johnson made his resignation speech.

Mr Gove was credited with making huge progress in the sector, placing an emphasis on making sure developers took responsibility for fire safety defects.

Under his watch, the Building Safety Act was made law, making building owners – rather than the leaseholders of individual flats – financially responsible for making dangerous buildings safe.

It applies to buildings above 11 metres tall or with more than five storeys. Mr Gove suggested that a prison sentence may be given to building owners that did not comply and continued to invoice residents for remediation costs.

Cladding became a national issue following the fire at Grenfell Tower in London in 2017 when 72 people died and a further 70 were injured

Cladding became a national issue following the fire at Grenfell Tower in London in 2017 when 72 people died and a further 70 were injured

Giles Grover, of campaigning group End Our Cladding Scandal, said: ‘We are sorry to see Mr Gove leave the Government.

‘Mr Gove was the fourth Secretary of State we have dealt with since this crisis began – we sincerely thank him and his officials for their engagement with us during his time in office and the determination to materially improve what was on the table since he was promoted to the role last September.

‘While the solution proposed by Mr Gove is by no means ideal, with a number of gaps remaining and action on the ground still insufficient, we have moved significantly further forward towards ending this scandal than we have over the last five years.

‘We have asked DLUHC’s policy officials for urgent clarity on the position of the ongoing work that is taking place, particularly in relation to the developer pledges that are in the process of being turned into contracts and the secondary legislation due to come into force on 20 July.

Innocent leaseholders have been in limbo for years and the work that Mr Gove has begun must not be brought to a halt 

‘Innocent leaseholders have been in limbo for years and the work that Mr Gove has begun must not be brought to a halt. We are hopeful that, when a new Prime Minister is in place, people will finally be placed before politics. 

‘We currently see no good reason why Mr Gove could not be re-appointed to ensure full stability and completion of the important tasks in hand. Failing that, we would need a politician of equal authority and determination to hold industry to account appointed to the role.

‘We welcome the comments from the new Secretary of State, Greg Clark, who has said that he will provide stability, good governance and accountability to Parliament at this important time. Our direct request to him is for continuity over the coming weeks. We look forward to meeting him.’

Flat owner says it will be ‘six or seven years’ since finding out about cladding before works are finished 

Natalie Carter is grateful that the remediation works at her block are underway, but says there are still thousands who are still waiting to get the work funded – and work cannot begin until it is. 

And yet her own cladding journey will have taken ‘six to seven’  years to complete even if it remains on its current schedule. 

During this time, she says that her life has been put on hold, not just due to the financial worry, but now due to the remediation works themselves.

The works produce constant noise on site and light is heavily restricted into her home due to Monarflex sheeting.

Ms Carter lives in a two-bedroom flat in London’s Canary Wharf, which she bought for £650,000 in 2015.

Her block has a total of 559 flats, which are now covered in scaffolding and Monarflex sheeting as remediation works to make them safe are carried out.

Like so many other flat owners affected by the cladding crisis, she is unable to sell until the building is safe, as lenders have been unwilling to lend on such properties due to the fire risk.

It follows the fire at Grenfell Tower in London in 2017 when 72 people died and a further 70 were injured.

Ms Carter explained that residents in her block had been told that it will be 38 weeks before the Monarflex and scaffolding would be removed. This is a 26 week delay.

‘By the time I realistically get our of here, it will be a minimum of six to seven years , maybe more, since discovering ACM cladding,’ she said.

‘The Building Safety Crisis is taking precious years form our lives.’

She explained that the residents in her block found out about the dangerous cladding six months after the Grenfell fire.

It means that it was five years last month since they found out about the dangerous cladding.

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