by: Mary-Anne Bowring/Property Investor Today
Financial Risk vs Safety
Following the recent vote in parliament to reject the latest amendment to the Fire Safety Bill, Mary-Anne Bowring of Ringley has outlined what this means for leaseholders. The amendment to the bill aimed to protect leaseholders from costs to make their homes safe in the wake of the Grenfell Tower fire. Bowring, who describes the decision as a ‘kick in the teeth for leaseholders’, says: “The House of Lords has sent the FSB back to the Commons for debate twice. Both times MPs have voted against changes that aimed to protect leaseholders from remedial fire safety costs.” “But as with most political hot potatoes, there is more to this one than meets the eye.
The amendment penned by the Bishop of St Albans (and the previous so-called McPartland amendment) was certainly laid down with the best of intentions.” During the debate, which took place on April 27, Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick explained that while the latest amendment may have let leaseholders off the hook, it didn’t make provision for remedial works to be paid by other means. Bowring says this would have meant leaving blocks high and dry without any means of funding waking watches, fire alarm maintenance and so on. “It could well have meant the fire service deeming blocks unsafe and forcing residents to evacuate. Extreme yes, but following the letter of the law, entirely possible,” she continues. So, what do beleaguered flat owners do now? “The government’s promised loan scheme for people living in blocks below six storeys has so far failed to materialise and the Bank of England has raised fears that the cladding scandal is now affecting property values so badly that it could tip the UK into another financial crisis."
“The government is hanging its hat on the Building Safety Bill which is due to start its passage through Parliament following the Queen's Speech on May 11. This is the right vehicle for dealing with leaseholder issues according to the MHCLG.” Bowring says given that the secondary legislation following the bill is likely to pick up on issues of cost and liability, it could take up to another two years to pass into law. “This situation cannot possibly be allowed to continue. Each day leaseholders are facing unaffordable bills, rapidly escalating insurance premiums and unbearable stress.” “Something needs to happen – and fast. But at the moment it is hard to see where the help that leaseholders so badly need might come from,” she concludes.
Lease Extension, FH and Right to Manage
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