Simon Jackson is managing director at SDL Surveying
We are now over four years on from the Grenfell Tower disaster which took the lives of 72 people and brought to light just how dangerous, and susceptible to fire, some of the cladding was (and is) on hundreds of buildings all across the country.
Four years on I wish I could say the lessons have been fully learned, those individuals lives lost resulting in immediate rectification of the cladding concerned, and that nobody is at risk again or indeed has been in anyway left out of pocket by issues far beyond their control.
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Of course, we are very far from this situation and four years on, we have had another government intervention with its Building Safety Bill, designed to reassure ‘the vast majority’ of residents in those buildings.
The bill will bring into being a new regulator which can prosecute property developers that do not meet safety standards and it gives residents 15 years (not six) to be able to pursue a claim for compensation from builders for work deemed to be unsafe or sub-standard.
We already know there is a £5bn fund to help remove cladding on buildings over 18 stories but we are still left with one certain fact in all of this – no-one wants to fund all the work required to remove it from all those impacted buildings.
Not the government, not the original developers, and certainly not the residents. The estimated cost is £15bn – you can see how large the current shortfall is.
However, that being the situation, what do you do as a resident? Not every cladded building is unsafe – we know that for a fact – but what risk do you deem low enough to live with what you’ve got? And, in the meantime, for those buildings which are deemed to have unsafe and dangerous cladding, but do not meet the threshold to secure Government funding, what do the residents do?
What they have been doing is either clubbing together to try and do it themselves – the costs of which can be huge. Or they are employing round-the-clock fire warden personnel to provide an early warning system should a fire break out – again the costs of which are also huge. Residents in those properties however might think what choice do they have in lieu of that cladding being removed?
There is some positive news from the Government’s most recent intervention – I suspect some developers were holding out until the six-year threshold was over, hoping they could kick any claims for compensation or action into the long grass.
That becomes much more difficult, almost impossible for those concerned given the lengthening of the timescale and certainly strengthens the opportunities for residents to take action.
However, what if the developer has already gone out of business, or if the building itself is already over 15 years old? What options are you left with then?
In the meantime, we have a situation where whole swathes of property are both unmortgagable and unsaleable – who can blame those interested in a property which comes with those issues for withholding their interest until the problem is resolved?
That said, for those who live in buildings which are deemed safe via their EWS1 form, we are still being instructed on such properties, they are being sold and mortgaged, and the process can move for those concerned.
It is however no surprise that a large degree of caution exists around these properties and that everyone wants to double/triple-check what the situation is before committing to anything. And of course it is no help to those living in properties which can’t secure that EWS1 form – for them the uncertainty goes on.
Would we call it a mess? For some residents it undoubtedly is and it might take many more years before they get any sort of resolution.