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Fears increase among cladding-hit flat owners after fire destroys London block

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Owners of flats affected by the coating saw their fears come true when a fire broke out at an apartment block in south-east London – the same day as the building safety bill was being debated in the House of Lords.

Twenty-five fire engines and around 120 firefighters attended the Deptford fire last week. London Fire Brigade said no injuries were reported.

However, the fire was a stark reminder to siding-affected victims of the potential dangers of living in a building where fire can spread quickly – particularly if it has unsafe siding or missing firestops.

Lucy Brown, who lives near the building that caught fire, said it was the “third serious fire within three miles of her home in as many months”.

“All of the buildings had major fire defects,” she said. ‘The third building was still burning as the Lords rejected certain amendments to the Building Safety Bill which would have shielded tenants from the costs needed to secure their poorly sold flats.’

Twenty-five fire engines and around 120 firefighters attended the building fire in Deptford yesterday

Twenty-five fire engines and around 120 firefighters attended the building fire in Deptford yesterday

Last week, the Lords accepted changes made to the Building Safety Bill by the Commons on April 20, reversing changes previously made by the Lords on March 29 and April 4.

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The Lords also defeated a new attempt to limit tenant contributions to non-coating costs to a maximum of £250.

After going back and forth between the Commons and the Lords, the Bill is now an Act of Parliament. It will probably take between two and 18 months for it to fully come into force.

In short, this means that tenants of affected buildings over 11 meters or at least five storeys cannot be charged for coating costs from the end of June this year – and the protection is backdated to 14 February 2022.

However, in reality, this may mean that tenants still have to pay for some work. Indeed, so far, only about 40 developers have reached an agreement in principle with the government to remedy critical fire safety defects on buildings constructed over the past 30 years.

But the contractual conditions to implement this promise have not yet been announced, explained Liam Spender, Director of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, and senior partner at Velitor Law.

He said: “The government’s solution is welcome but complicated. This will only succeed if the developers don’t write the agreements in a way that allows them to get away with it.

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“Managing agents and freeholders will be responsible for implementing some of the cost protections. They have a poor track record of complying with current service fee law. The government must take a strong stance against all parties involved if it is to succeed.

Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, concerns over cladding have become a national issue

Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, concerns over cladding have become a national issue

There is no help for people who have already paid or have apartments in buildings less than 11 meters high. And there’s no help for anyone with more than three rental properties either.

However, tenants can still be expected to pay between £10,000 and £100,000 of non-coating costs.

Tenants of flats worth less than £175,000 outside London – and £325,000 inside the capital – cannot be held liable for paying anything for non-coating costs .

Steph Pike, landlord of apartments affected by the siding, said: While progress has been made in terms of who pays for fire safety repair costs, most tenants still live in potentially dangerous buildings that do not are not ready to be fixed.

“We discovered that my building had problems over two years ago, but we don’t know when or if it will be fixed. We are still stuck in limbo.

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“The recent fires in buildings in London really make me fear that, if these buildings are not repaired quickly, it is only a matter of time before another Grenfell occurs.”

Tenant Steph Pike says the recent fires in London have made him fear that if these buildings aren't fixed soon, it's only a matter of time before another Grenfell happens.

Tenant Steph Pike says the recent fires in London have made him fear that if these buildings aren’t fixed soon, it’s only a matter of time before another Grenfell happens.

And speaking last week, Natalie Carter, owner of a siding-affected apartment, said: ‘Yesterday’s fire raged for nearly 12 hours – it’s terrifying.’ Just when the Lords gave up the fight to protect the leaseholders at all costs.

“Is the government really going to wait for the next Grenfell before acting? Why are we still figuring out who is paying when more and more fires are destroying homes and threatening lives? »

A DLUHC spokesperson said: “The Building Security Act, passed today, will for the first time legally protect tenants from the cost of securing their buildings.

“Tenants will be freed from unfair bills because building owners will not be able to pass the costs on to them.

“This is on top of pledges made by over 35 of the UK’s largest homebuilders to fix all 11m buildings – the more they have played a role in development over the past 30 years.”

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