Author : Mary-Anne Bowring
Dangerous ACM cladding like the type used on Grenfell Tower is finally to be replaced on private blocks.
Leaseholders in the 156 private blocks around the country with dangerous Grenfell-style cladding, received the good news last week that the government is to stump up £200 million to pay for it to be replaced. Building owners now have three months to access the fund. The row over who should pay for new cladding on private blocks has rumbled on for almost two years, since the Grenfell fire in June 2017 revealed the fatal flaws of ACM coverings on high rise blocks. What it also revealed - to the public as well as to those already in the know - is the conundrum at the heart of leasehold: which is that he who pays the piper, doesn't necessarily call the tune. Or in other words, the flat owners who pay the service charge are not always involved in the decisions that are taken about their blocks. This frequently applies as much to the placement of insurance and the appointment of maintenance contractors as it does to decisions around the specification of building materials. However, flat owners are not building experts. They have to rely on their property managers to do the right thing and involve residents in decision making wherever possible. It is important that they communicate the thinking behind the choices that are made, in order to ensure the best outcomes for residents as well as landlords.
When it comes to cladding and other major building components neither property managers nor residents have an input first time round. Those decisions are down to architects and developers who, in turn, must adhere to the building regulations. The choice of replacement cladding will now be under scrutiny from all sides and the government has already told the leasehold sector that the funding announced last week is a one-time only offer. At the last count, there were 156 private blocks around the country still in need of remediation. With £200 million on offer, it's not hard to do the maths. Price, as always, will be a factor in determining which products are most appropriate. The other interesting point to note is that buried in the small print of the government's statement are these words: 'As a condition of funding, we will require the building owner to take reasonable steps to recover the costs from those responsible for the presence of the unsafe cladding'. So watch this space - this story isn't over yet.
Mary-Anne Bowring FIRPM FRICS FARLA FCABE Founder/Head of Asset Management
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