Building safety bill must not leave tenants struggling with ruinous remediation costs


Member of Parliament for Royston Smith

4 minutes to read

The Building Safety Bill will be a great opportunity for the government to commit to helping tenants whose homes are deemed unsafe through no fault of their own.

Earlier this year, after several ping-pong games with the Lords, the McPartland / Smith amendment to the fire safety bill was rejected by the government. It was, of course, disappointing for me, but it was nothing compared to the disappointment felt by tenants across the country.

During the next parliamentary session, the bill on the safety of buildings will be presented and this is to be welcomed. The bill will introduce a new era of accountability, clarifying where the responsibility for managing security risks lies throughout the design, construction and occupancy of the buildings concerned. There will be tougher penalties for those who fail to meet their obligations. The bill includes a number of protections, including allowing the government to limit what can be clawed back from tenants.

I am happy that the MHCLG has conducted a survey to seek the opinion of tenants on the Lease Advisory Service and that the Treasury is consulting on the new tax on residential real estate developers until the end of July. This tax is one of several measures announced by the government to finance the remediation of unsafe coatings, reassure homeowners and restore confidence in the housing market.

The owners continued to wonder if they had not wasted their savings on an apartment that is worth much less than what they paid for it.

While the Building Safety Bill is important to protect tenants in the future, tenants who have been affected by the coating flaw and fire safety crisis should not be forgotten and a fair solution should also be be offered to them.

Hundreds of thousands of homeowners face financial ruin from repair costs, exorbitant insurance costs, and standby charges. Often the amount of bills received by tenants is greater than the equity in the property. When the fire safety bill was passed, the ministers said that the issue of tenants would be addressed in the building safety bill. We will keep their word and remind them that protection must be for all tenants, not just future tenants.

The Building Safety Fund is a welcome intervention from the government. But at the end of May 2021, out of 2,820 registered private residential buildings, only a quarter had been the subject of an application. Aside from those who are not eligible – for example, those whose homes are in buildings less than 18 meters in height – a third of applicants are in limbo because they have no evidence available or insufficient evidence to allow verification, and therefore still can not complete an application for funding. And because one of the criteria for applying is each tenant’s commitment to cover repair costs if their application fails, most landlords wonder if they wasted their savings on an apartment that’s worth it. much less than what they paid. for that.

Applications for the Building Safety Fund will close at the end of June 2021. The extension of the deadline will mainly benefit building owners who need to provide additional information to substantiate their application. Given the time it takes to put together the documents required to apply for financing, many homeowners will likely miss out.

The Building Safety Bill will be a great opportunity for the government to commit to helping tenants whose homes are deemed unsafe through no fault of their own.

The government should reopen registrations and applications to the Building Safety Fund and expand the criteria to include buildings less than 18 meters in height, so that homeowners who do not recover the costs of repairing siding through insurance or legal action will not have to bear the costs themselves.

Royston Smith is the Member of Parliament for Southampton Itchen.

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