Experts at West Yorkshire-based law firm, John Howe & Co, are calling for more clarity on government plans to help people living with the nightmare of homes covered in unsafe cladding.
The Government recently announced developers, rather than leaseholders, must pay to fix the cladding crisis.
Its new four-point plan comprises:
- Those at fault being held properly to account with a new team being established to pursue and expose companies at fault, making them fix the buildings they built and facing commercial consequences if they refuse.
- New protections for leaseholders living in their own flats, with no bills for fixing unsafe cladding and new statutory protections for leaseholders within the Building Safety Bill.
- Opening up the next phase of the Building Safety Fund to drive forward taking dangerous cladding off high-rise buildings, prioritising the government’s £5,1bn funding on the highest risk.
- Restoring common sense to building assessments – indemnifying building assessors from being sued and withdrawing the old, misinterpreted government advice that led to too many buildings being declared unsafe.
But John Howe, of the Pudsey-based law firm, warned that, while any positive moves are to be welcomed, “many leaseholders still are going to find it difficult to move or re-mortgage their properties for some time to come”.
He advised: “A leasehold conveyancing can be long-winded and expensive. Anyone who might be affected should consider taking legal advice at the beginning of a proposed sales transaction to establish whether the uncertainties relating to cladding are likely to derail a sale.”
He added: “On the surface these plans appear to lift the nightmare of leaseholders facing massive bills, in some cases running to tens of thousands of pounds, to fix unsafe cladding on the outside of their apartment blocks.
“Inevitably, the devil will be in the detail – people left in limbo because of the cladding scandal need more clarity as soon as possible.
“Clauses in the Bill will allow the government to introduce a levy on developers of high-rise building. This will build on the four percent tax on the largest most profitable developers, which was announced in the Budget, and which is expected to raise at least £2 billion during the next ten years to help pay for building safety remediation.
“However, it already has been reported that some large developers intend to resist the suggestion of the levy.
“The government also has stated that ‘there must be fewer unnecessary surveys, an assumption that this is no risk to life in medium and low-rise buildings unless clear evidence to the contrary’ is produced.
“While the government can make bold statements, it remains to be seen what attitude the lenders and surveyors take. If the latter are cautious and the lenders are unwilling to lend money on flats contained in buildings with suspect cladding, this will not assist leaseholders in the short term.”