Eastbourne MP signs bill making it illegal for developers to pass on cladding costs

The MP for Eastbourne has backed a bill around fire safety which would make it illegal for developers to pass on the cost of removing dangerous cladding to residents.

Monday, 1st February 2021, 11:14 am
Updated Monday, 1st February 2021, 11:14 am

Caroline Ansell has been campaigning to help householders in around 40 properties across the town who have the issue of unsafe cladding - a problem that was brought to light in 2017 after the Grenfell fire in London killed 72 people.

The public inquiry into the fire found that aluminium composite material panels were the main cause of the fire and the rate in which it was able to spread throughout the building.

Many leasehold owners cannot re-mortgage or move because they face having to pay tens of thousands of pounds to make their property safe. It is expected 3.6 million people nationwide are trapped in potentially unsellable housing because of this.

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Mrs Ansell said today (February 1) that she believes the government must do more to protect flat owners from having to pay out their life savings to fix dangerous cladding and that developers should be forced to pick up the bill.

She said, “This is a major issue in Eastbourne and across the UK and it is simply not fair for innocent people to have to pay out or face bankruptcy when they knew nothing about the danger from this cladding.

“I met with local residents last week who are at their wits’ end having to face spending their life savings or putting off retirement. This is heartbreaking to hear.

“The fact is the worry about the financial liability can be just as damaging as the actual fear of living in a building with combustible cladding.

Grenfell fire in 2017

“I also think the actions of developers in this issue is simply not good enough. I am writing to the chief executive of Berkeley Homes, making it clear I believe it is responsible and that hiding behind corporate umbrellas and subsidiaries is not good enough.

“I will continue to do all I can to lobby ministers for more help and I fully support the amendment. The government has earmarked £1.6 billion to help but it’s not going to be enough.”

Mrs Ansell said she was told last week that the cost of removing cladding from one block of flats in Eastbourne was quoted to cost £5.1 million - between £40,000-£90,000 per flat.

She said, “One way forward might be to zero rate this work for VAT because they would certainly offer far more support across the UK than £1.6 billion so far pledged for homeowners trapped in these distressing circumstances through absolutely no fault of their own.”

Mrs Ansell said that for the government to pick up the entire bill for all blocks across the UK might cost £20 billion and said it was not for the government to use taxpayers’ money to ‘wholly fund the repairs but it has a duty to resolve it’.

She said, “The best way forward here is to better pursue the developers for this money until all avenues are exhausted while legally protecting homeowners.

“I will also be asking ministers to look at a larger government fund and VAT reduction to help those who are in dire financial circumstances.”

Mrs Ansell said she wants to see the outcome in favour of the flat leaseholder with ‘much reduced or preferably no bill for any work that is needed’.