Last night I voted for amendments to the Fire Safety Bill, which would have stopped building owners passing on the cost of fixing problems to leaseholders and tenants, but they were defeated in a vote in the House of Commons when nearly all Tory MPs voted with the Government.
The Government has said it will cover the costs of removing dangerous cladding from buildings over 18 metres high, but there is nothing for residents of buildings lower than 18 metres nor for structural fire safety problems which aren’t linked to cladding, such as inadequate internal fire ‘barriers’. Some face bills running into thousands of pounds.
Residents in developments like so many of the blocks in the New England Quarter face steeply rising costs for fire insurance, employing a “waking watch” and increased service charges. Fire safety defects mean they can’t get EWS1 forms for fire safety, so the flats are unsaleable.
The reason so many apartment blocks are fire hazards is because of government deregulation over decades, and the outsourcing of inspection to companies working for the developers themselves. For too long, developers have had too much influence over the marking of their own homework on critical safety issues and the consequence has been buildings where residents now feel unsafe.
Central government created this problem and it is outrageous that leaseholders are being left to pay for it.
Many of these flats were marketed as affordable housing for key workers, who we have learned to depend on in the past year more than ever. Yet their reward from this Government is being abandoned and left with bills of many thousands of pounds to sort out a mess which is not of their making.
The fight for justice for them isn’t over yet. The Fire Safety Bill will go back to the House of Lords and I hope the amendments to protect all leaseholders will be put back in the Bill.