Michael Gove threatens developers to pay for cladding remediation

Housing secretary Michael Gove has threatened the building industry with heightened taxation if they fail to remove unsafe cladding from tower blocks.

Speaking in Westminster yesterday, Gove said he would meet with developers in the coming weeks, adding that a solution will be imposed in law if they fail come to an agreement.

He pledged that no leaseholders living in a building above 11 metres will have to pay to fix dangerous cladding.

Gove said: “To those who missold dangerous products like cladding or insulation, to those who cut corners to save cash as they developed and refurbished people’s homes, and to those who sought to profiteer from the consequences of the Grenfell tragedy – we are coming for you.”

He added: “I will today be writing to developers to convene a meeting over the next few weeks and I will report back to the house before Easter.

“We will give them a chance to do the right thing – I hope that they will take it.

“But I can confirm to the house today that if they do not then if necessary we will impose a solution on them in law.”

He went on to say that leaseholders shouldn’t have to “pay money they don’t have to fix a problem with didn’t cause”.

Proposals for loans and long-term debt for medium rise leaseholders have therefore been scrapped, while Gove has established a team to expose and pursue companies responsible for unsafe cladding.

The Building Safety Bill will be amended so leaseholders can challenge those who cause defects on properties for 30 years retrospectively.

Gove added that members of the Commons and Lords will pursue statutory protection for leaseholders, adding that “nothing will be off the table”.

The announcement has been met with a positive response.

Mary-Anne Bowring, group managing director at property management company Ringley, said: “Leaseholders affected by the cladding crisis living in buildings between 11 and 18 meters have long been taken for granted in the government’s approach to fire safety remediation. The announcement today is vindication for thousands facing astronomical costs that come with replacing unsafe cladding.

“Those imprisoned by these costs still face an uphill struggle as funding will only cover cladding replacement when new legislation mandates much more substantial changes to meet fire safety compliance which come at a steep cost.

“We ought to also question how this funding will be secured, the accessibility of grants, and the transparency of a system which transfers responsibility from the true culprits who were largely wound down and disappeared post-Grenfell, to developers more broadly who face a blanket tax for the failure of a few.”

Property investor Israel Moskovitz said: “We were pleased to hear the government’s latest announcement on the issue of cladding. It is encouraging that proper plans are to be put in place to reduce ambiguity and ensure that the costs of fixing dangerous cladding isn’t put on leaseholders and companies who had no control over the building process.

“This cladding crisis has gone on for far too long, and it is only right that the government is now finding a way to support those in buildings under 18.5m too and taking action to raise £4bn to make affected buildings safe. This should help residents across the country live in safe conditions without footing enormous bills.

“However, it is essential that the government also address funding for the building safety defects not mentioned in this announcement such as defective fire doors, wooden balconies and construction defects.”

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