The government has said leaseholders should not pay for the removal of dangerous cladding from their buildings. Ritu Saha asks how this squares with its plan to offer loans
“There is a moral imperative for private sector landlords to do the right thing and remove unsafe cladding quickly, and not leave leaseholders to cover the cost.”
These were the words of housing secretary James Brokenshire in September 2018.
While the government has been slow to back up these tough words with actions, it has always remained consistent in holding this position: leaseholders should not be the ones who pay the crippling bills to make their buildings safe.
With this in mind, we were surprised and disappointed to hear recently the details of the latest plan to fix the crisis: loans to leaseholders to help them pay the costs.
The details are sketchy and still being developed ahead of next week’s Budget, but we know it is being talked about.
This would be a betrayal of homeowners.
How can the government say it is morally wrong for us to foot the bill for fixing a problem we had no role in creating, then offer us a loan to fund the work?
Doing so would legitimise passing the costs to us. It would send a message to building owners and developers that it was perfectly okay to pass on these costs to the people who live in these buildings, and it would fatally weaken the hands of those who are bravely fighting to get them to take responsibility.
These loans would not be small. There are buildings where the costs reach £100,000 per flat.
Many leaseholders are already indebted to the banks through the mortgages on their now-worthless flats where they are trapped. We cannot afford to take on loans from government or anywhere else.
Neither should we be expected to.
The problems in our homes – from the flammable exterior cladding through the missing fire breaks to the poor quality of internal compartmentation – are evidence of a broken system that has failed to ensure the quality and safety of new buildings over at least 30 years. The bills to make them safe are the reckoning for this.
You could make a case that the government should pay them, as it has overseen this system and its building control inspectors signed off these properties as compliant with the regulations that its officials wrote.
You could make a case that the developers should pay them, as they have profited from building the homes and the loose regulations, which in some cases they have actively ignored.
You could make a case that the building owners should pay them, as they are legally responsible under fire safety laws for keeping our homes safe.
But you cannot make a case that the residents should pay them. Yet if the government pushes ahead with its plans to offer loans, we will be the ones who pay, incurring debts that will follow us for the rest of our lives.
I am one such resident. Today, I am speaking on behalf of hundreds of thousands more across the country to say to the government, “Think again.”
We do not need a loan. We need your help to solve this crisis. We need your help to make those who are truly responsible answer. We need your help to make our homes safe and ensure there is no repeat of the devastating fire at Grenfell Tower in 2017.
There is a moral imperative for you to act.
Ritu Saha, leaseholder, Northpoint Bromley, and founding member, UK Cladding Action Group
The next government must:
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