Committee says government must protect leaseholders from the cost of repairing historic safety failures
The government must come forward with a plan on how to fund historical building safety problems, the housing select committee has warned.
In a report on pre-legislative scrutiny of the Building Safety Bill the housing committee said it was imperative that the government made it clear leaseholders were going to be protected from having to pay for repairs.
The committee said: ”The government must announce, before it publishes the bill, its proposals for funding all historical building safety remediation works.
”These proposals should impose no costs on leaseholders and explicitly acknowledge that in the short term the government must foot the bill, until such time as mechanisms for cost recovery have been developed.”
The recommendations come amid mounting controversy over the plight of leasehold residents trapped in high rise flats who are unable to afford to repair their homes but unable to move until the work is done. The government has set aside £1.6bn to contribute toward the cost of repairs but has insisted that developers and contractors should foot the bill in the first instance.
It comes after the chair of the Industry Safety Steering Group, Dame Judith Hackitt, said on Monday the government was working on amendments to the bill designed to tackle exactly this problem.
It also comes after the ministry announced at the weekend that it was acting to prevent homes without cladding being drawn into problems experienced by homeowners since the introduction of the EWS1 form. This is designed to help an estimate 431,000 leaseholders potentially affected by the problems.
the latest figures show that 44% of buildings identified as having flammable ACM cladding still have the material in place, nearly three and a half years on from the Grenfell fire, in which 72 people died.
The recommendation over repair costs is one of 13 key recommendations the report made.
The committee also recommended that the government publish a clear timetable with the bill so it was clear when the industry had to demonstrate compliance and the building safety regulator establish the regime.
The report also said the government should publish statutory guidance alongside the bill outlining how it expected accountable persons and responsible persons to cooperate in practice.
The government has also been told it should announce before the bill is published whether it intends to adopt the competency framework for the role of building safety manager proposed in the report from working group 8.
The committee said if it does not, it must publish with the bill the full details of the framework it does intend to adopt.
Housing committee key recommendations
- We urge the government to include as much detail in the bill itself or to publish the secondary legislation alongside it. It is especially important that this be done for core provisions such as the gateways process and the regulation of construction products.
- We recommend that the government publish with the bill a clear timetable for commencement so it is clear by when the industry has to demonstrate compliance and the building safety regulator establish the regime.
- The government must recommit to the principle that leaseholders should not pay anything towards the cost of remediating historical building safety defects, and, in order to provide leaseholders with the peace of mind they deserve, amend the bill to explicitly exclude historical costs from the building safety charge.
- The government must announce, before it publishes the bill, its proposals for funding all historical building safety remediation works. These proposals should impose no costs on leaseholders and explicitly acknowledge that in the short term the government must foot the bill, until such time as mechanisms for cost recovery have been developed.
- We strongly recommend that the initial scope of the regime be enshrined in the bill itself, and not be left to delegated legislation, in order to give stakeholders the certainty they need to prepare for the new regime.
- We recommend that the government specify in the bill itself by way of a requirement to “have regard” the factors that must be considered in the future when the scope of the regime is expanded and that the ability of residents to evacuate the building be the principal factor. We also recommend that any requirement to have regard to the ability of residents to evacuate a building explicitly include both the vulnerability of residents and the number of means of egress. Finally, we recommend that the government indicate its intention to review the scope and set a timetable for doing so.
- We strongly recommend that the government include provisions in the bill itself for establishing a national system of third-party accreditation and registration for all professionals working on the design and construction of higher-risk buildings.
- We recommend that dutyholder choice be removed entirely from the building control system and replaced by a system of independent appointment, and that this be made explicit either in the bill or in secondary legislation to be published alongside it.
- We recommend that the bill provide for a general duty to co-operate on accountable persons in respect of buildings for which there are multiple accountable persons and that the government publish statutory guidance alongside the bill setting out the sorts of behaviours that would be expected under such a duty.
- We recommend that the government publish statutory guidance alongside the bill outlining how it expects accountable persons and responsible persons to co-operate in practice. In the longer term, we recommend that the government review the operation of the two regimes with a view to rationalising and simplifying the legislation.
- The government must announce before the bill is published whether it intends to adopt the competency framework for the role of building safety manager proposed in the report from working group 8. If it does not, it must publish with the bill the full details of the framework it does intend to adopt.
- We recommend that the government provide, either in legislation or in statutory guidance, for a national system of accreditation to agreed common standards and for a central register of building safety managers.
- We recommend that the government provide for the publication of test failures and re-run tests and for the establishment of an independent and unified system of third-party certification in order to introduce greater transparency and rigour into the regulation of construction products.