Since the fire at Grenfell Tower, it has become known that thousands of buildings across the country have potentially dangerous materials on them, including schools, offices, hospitals, social housing and privately owned buildings. A huge programme of building safety works is being planned and in progress nationwide to remove and replace this cladding and other materials. The total cost of this work will be billions of pounds and will take many years to complete, potentially a decade.
The government has committed to covering the costs of remediating combustible materials in external wall systems of buildings 18m and over, to support leaseholders who live in those buildings. However, there may be additional works required to eligible buildings, as well as remedial works required in medium and lower rise buildings. It is currently unknown how all of the building safety works will be paid for. For example, some building owners are pursuing legal cases against the developers who built the property whilst some building owners may have already paid for the work themselves. In some circumstances, leaseholders, including shared owners, are responsible for the costs by law. This is why you may have seen in the media that some leaseholders have been receiving letters or bills for this repair work. However, the government and housing associations have said publicly that they do not think leaseholders, including shared owners, should have to cover the costs of this work on their properties. They both understand that in many cases the costs will not be affordable for leaseholders.
Given all of this uncertainty, since January 2020 banks and building societies are increasingly asking for extra building safety checks, called EWS1 checks, before lending potential buyers a mortgage on flats and apartments. The checks need to be carried out by qualified fire safety experts but there aren't enough of these professionals for the scale of all the safety work and checks that now need to be carried out across the country. The government has recommended that EWS1 checks do not need to be carried out on buildings below 18m, but some lenders may still ask for them or for alternate documentation that would still require specialist input from a qualified professional.
This is an incredibly complex issue and there are still a lot of unknowns. At the National Housing Federation we are lobbying government - along with banks, groups of leaseholders and other building owners - about how they can resolve the problem as soon as possible. We understand this may be an upsetting situation for people who are concerned about having to pay for the replacement of cladding on their buildings. We recommend you speak to your housing association and mortgage lender if you are experiencing any problems. You may also want to contact your local MP to ensure they can represent your experiences in Parliament.