Housing Secretary Michael Gove has continued his building safety push by announcing “tough new measures” to stop leaseholders from paying “exorbitant costs”.
For those in industry not doing the right thing, the government will be able to block planning permission and building control sign-off on developments, effectively preventing them from building and selling new homes.
The proposals will see the industry pay to fix historical problems, with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities in ongoing discussions with industry leaders.
The government will also be able to apply its new building safety levy to more developments, with scope for higher rates for those who do not participate in finding a workable solution.
The government says it “hopes to not have to use these powers” but that if these companies don’t act then “they must face commercial and financial consequences.”
Alongside further leaseholder legal protections, courts will also be given new powers to stop developers using shadowy shell companies, which make them difficult to trace or identify who they are run by, so they can avoid taking responsibility for their actions.
If passed by Parliament, these amendments to the Building Safety Bill will be brought into law.
Cost Contribution Orders will be able to be placed on manufacturers who have been successfully prosecuted under construction products regulations. These orders will require them to pay their fair share on buildings requiring remediation.
The amendments will also allow building owners and landlords to take legal action against manufacturers who used defective products on a home that has since been found unfit for habitation. The power will stretch back 30 years and allow recovery where costs have already been paid out.
New clauses will also enshrine in law that no leaseholder living in their own home, or sub-letting in a building over 11m, ever pays a penny for the removal of dangerous cladding.
Under the plans, developers that still own a building over 11m that they built or refurbished – or landlords linked to an original developer – will be required to pay in full to fix historic building safety issues in their property.
Building owners who are not linked to the developer but can afford to pay in full will also be required to put up the money to do so.
In the small number of cases where building owners do not have the resources to pay, leaseholders will be protected by a cap.
The cap will be set at similar levels to ‘Florrie’s Law’ which applies to some repairs to social housing: £10,000 for homes outside London and £15,000 for homes in the capital. This will limit how much leaseholders in this scenario can be asked to pay for non-cladding costs, including waking watch charges.
Any costs paid out by leaseholders over the past five years will count towards the cap, meaning some leaseholders will pay nothing more. A consultation will be done on this measure to “ensure it delivers the right results for leaseholders”.
Secretary of State for Levelling Up Michael Gove said: “It is time to bring this scandal to an end, protect leaseholders and see the industry work together to deliver a solution.
“These measures will stop building owners passing all costs on to leaseholders and make sure any repairs are proportionate and necessary for their safety.
“All industry must play a part, instead of continuing to profit whilst hardworking families struggle.
“We cannot allow those who do not take building safety seriously to build homes in the future, and for those not willing to play their part they must face consequences.
“We will take action to keep homes safe and to protect existing leaseholders from paying the price for bad development.”