Dame Judith Hackitt has told The Guardian that leaseholders caught up in the building safety scandal risk being “fleeced” by landlords and builders, meaning that “we are are making lives worse than need be”.
The chair of the independent review of building regulations and fire safety, and a former chair of the Health and Safety Executive, tells the newspaper that she wants to help, but then says leaseholders “should get a second opinion” on the works.
This is an almost impossible task in leasehold. Leaseholders simply cannot go about commissioning safety reports on a building they do not own.
The exclusive interview, with reporter Robert Booth, nonetheless demonstrates Hackitt’s uneasiness about having created a building safety regime that is set to ruin the lives of thousands of people, who now face wipe-out bills – in excess of £200,000 in some cases.
“Morally they [the leaseholders] shouldn’t have to pay, but what shocks me is the size of some of the bills and whether the problem is being added to by them being exploited,” said Hackitt. “They seem to have no right to challenge what is being prescribed.”
Post-Grenfell fire safety: leaseholders risk being fleeced, warns top adviser
Leaseholders risk being “fleeced” by profiteering landlords and builders in the post-Grenfell fire safety crisis, a senior government adviser has warned in comments likely to increase pressure on ministers to finally resolve the problem. More than four years after the disaster that claimed 72 lives, tens of thousands of leaseholders are being landed with crippling remediation bills exceeding £200,000 per household in the worst cases.
The newspaper reports that she said she wanted to help leaseholders in “not getting fleeced by their landlords”. “The first thing you should do is not just get one survey done, get a second opinion.”
But leaseholders have absolutely no right to commission this sort of survey. At best they could employ someone to make a tertiary examination of the survey reports produced for the landlord … IF the landlord chooses to provide that survey to the leaseholders in the first place (which at the moment they have no obligation to do so).
Hackitt was also scathing about the building sector still cutting corners, in spite of the shocking revelations of the Grenfell inquiry over rigged cladding tests and other regulatory failings.
“I am in contact with people in the fire service and building control who are telling me they are still having to pull people up for poor practice,” she told the Guardian. “There is a general lack of care for quality.”
The Guardian says: “Her comments come as the government pushes ahead with building dozens of hospital facilities and aims to build 300,000 homes annually to solve the affordability crisis. They also reflect fears among some leaseholders that remediation works may result in fresh faults. The new building safety regulator does not look set to be fully established until mid-2023.”
“We should have gone faster,” Hackitt said. “There are still parts of the industry who are saying we can’t change what we do … they are still using excuses … It is disconcerting for us and it is worrying.”
Hackitt’s also reinforced the argument advanced by LKP – and recently taken up by Community Secretary Robert Jenrick – that:
“There has been a disproportionate reaction to the level of risk in medium and lower-rise buildings.”
“We need to get to the bottom of this as quickly as we possibly can, before they pay those bills,” she said. “We need to get the message out there that the [leaseholders] should challenge some of these bills and ask is there any other way of making this building safer.”
A spokesperson for the MHCLG said more risk-proportionate guidelines for fire risk assessors were in development.
“Building owners should make buildings safe without passing costs on to leaseholders – and our new measures will introduce a legal requirement for building owners to prove they have tried all routes to cover the cost of essential safety works,” the MHCLG is quoted.
LKP is not aware of any freeholder / landlord that has paid to remediate a building, apart from Legal and General at Reflexion / Blenheim Centre in Hounslow, as LKP reported in November 2017:
Did anyone see the programme on Wed at 10 pm on channel 4 Grenfell: the untold story?
A harrowing watch that should be shown on BBC prime time for everyone to see as it so clearly shows the reasons for the fire and the reasons why nothing has changed nor will change until someone is held to account!!
Yes, I also saw the Channel 4 programme, which covered in some detail the issue of replacement window installation at Grenfell. One tenant described the perimeter gap (maybe 125-150mm) being filled with combustible mastic sealant, hence making the windows non-resistant to the spread of fire. This once again illustrates the problem of self-certification by contractors, which I covered in my own submission to Parliament on the draft Building Safety Bill: self certification should be banned and replaced with professional (Local Authority) Building Control.
Our building was inspected and passed by Wandsworth Building Control but we cannot challenge this decision nor sue them despite our building having numerous fire safety infringements. At a recent inspection it failed 38 of the 43 fire safety criteria.
Katherine, you have a right to submit a formal complaint of alleged wilful gross misconduct against the the officers of the Council and its Building Control Department.
“Considering in its entirety the construction and fire safety inspection of “our building” and the subsequent unqualified approval of the building by Wandsworth Building Control Department which a recent inspection has now demonstrated failure on 38 of 43 fire safety criteria: did Wandsworth Council and its Building Control Department conduct itself throughout in an adequate, competent and professional standard.”
The Council has an imposed timeframe to undertake an investigation during which they will vigorously attempt to evade, and obstruct a proper investigation, but when they have exhausted these antics you can then escalate the matter to the Local government Ombudsman for a fair and unbiased investigation and may well award compensation and recommend disciplinary action or prosecution.
Good luck, it’s time councils started honouring their duty to protect their electorate against predatory landlords and developers