“Two years after Grenfell and this building is still covered in
A fitting tribute to those who died would be for the government to say that all dangerous cladding has been replaced across the country. This is not the case. Removing and replacing Grenfell-style and other flammable cladding has been much too slow. The whole exercise has become tied up in knots as the industry tries to work out who should pay for the work. The government has finally come up with funding to help get the job done but the problem at the heart of the cladding scandal – for private blocks at least – is the leasehold system itself.
Owners of leasehold buildings are not legally responsible for paying to replace dangerous building products with a safe alternative. This falls into the category of repairs and maintenance, which leaseholders must pay for via the service charge. Many current owners have bought blocks from the original developer several years down the line. They weren’t involved in the original specification or the build. Institutional investors own large portfolios of residential blocks, many of which may have changed hands several times. Hence the endless arguments and delays that have dogged the sector post-Grenfell. Leaseholders may hold the moral high ground but they are still obliged to foot the bill. Some building owners have taken the decision to do the decent thing and pay up. Many are still fighting their corner.
But there may be a glimmer of hope on the horizon. The Law Commission is supporting the expansion of commonhold as an alternative to the antiquated and often unfair leasehold system. Adopting commonhold would mean developers selling flats outright rather than maintaining their interest in the building or selling it on. The residents form a commonhold company and all responsibility for
In tandem with the government’s plans for a new, enforceable building safety regime in residential blocks, this could make all the difference. It won’t help those who have had to resort to projecting slogans onto their blocks to raise awareness of their plight, but could it work for future flat owners? We will have to wait and see.