Leaseholders and residents living in medium-rise buildings will get their properties made safe while being protected from extortionate cladding repair bills, the government has said.

The launch of a new pilot comes ahead of a wider rollout next year, when it will be the biggest building safety scheme in operation. It will be funded by the £3bn Building Safety Levy and cover buildings between 11-18m tall, where the developer cannot be traced or held responsible for remediation work.

Approximately 60 buildings across England, which have interim safety measures in place, such as waking watches, will be invited to apply for the pilot from today.

Lee Rowley, Minister for Local Government and Building Safety, said: “This is an important step forward for leaseholders who have been trapped in unsafe, unsellable homes with unfair costly repair bills for far too long.

“Building owners have the responsibility to get essential cladding repairs done and this scheme will help ensure this happens.

“We are taking action to protect innocent leaseholders and ensure they are safe and secure in their homes. I will be monitoring progress very closely as we work towards the launch next year.”

Homes England will be running the pilot and ensuring that building owners or freeholders in targeted buildings get the help they need to assess and fix fire safety defects. There is also an opportunity for building owners in eligible medium-rise blocks to share their details ahead of the wider rollout to help them prepare and plan for the next phase of the scheme.

More details on eligibility and the application process for the full scheme will be announced next year. Buildings will be assessed through a fire risk assessment carried out in line with the British Standards Institute PAS 9980 standard, to ensure that recommended work is proportionate, and the funding is properly targeted.

Proposals for £3bn Building Safety Levy, which will fund the scheme, are currently out for consultation. The levy will run alongside pledges by 49 of the country’s biggest homebuilders have committed at least £2bn to fix life-critical fire-safety cladding defects in buildings over 11 metres they had a role in developing in the last 30 years.