One of the most prominent scandals currently in the UK is the cladding crisis. Up to 700,000 people are being forced to live in dangerous and unfit homes. The buildings are unsafe due to the flammable cladding material used. The type of cladding was the cause of how rapidly the fire spread in the deadly Grenfell Tower fire, which left 72 people dead in June 2017.

Government Confusion

In the wake of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire, the government decided to refurbish tower blocks with the unsafe cladding material – but did not specify who should cover the immense cost. The Government’s confusing response to this crisis has left owners of up to 1.5 million flats in limbo. With the unsafe cladding on their buildings, they cannot sell or get a mortgage on their homes. Lenders are too cautious about providing mortgages for these high-rise flats unless they have certain safety certificates.

Those living in properties with the unsafe cladding are told they must spend thousands of pounds to remove it from the building. The majority, who are renters, do not even own these properties. As a result, millions have been left desperate and without options as they cannot afford the immense expense to remove the cladding, and while it remains, their properties are left worthless. Leaseholders are urging chancellor Rishi Sunak to settle the cladding scandal by covering the costs of removing the hazardous material.

Thousands of pounds in costs

Campaigners say that the cost of the urgent work needed to make buildings safe often falls on leaseholders. The sums of removing hazardous materials can reach above £100,000 per flat in the worst cases. Before the works can be done to make the buildings safe, leaseholders are also required to pay for waking watches, a 24-hour fire patrol, and other interim safety measures. These costs can reach up to £800 per month per flat. 

Earlier in the year, the Government announced a £1 billion fund towards covering the costs of necessary safety work. This cam on top of the £600 million previously committed. However, critics are adamant that the fund doesn’t go nearly far enough. They claim that the £1.6 billion will only cover the costs of fewer than 600 of the 2,957 high-rises that have registered for funding.

National effort required

Campaigners in the cladding scandal urge the Government to drive an urgent national effort to eliminate all dangerous cladding from buildings by June 2022. They push for the fund to be extended to cover all buildings, regardless of height, and deal with other dangerous fire safety defects. In response, the Government says that an ongoing effort is being led to develop a possible financing solution to protect leaseholders from the unaffordable costs. The Building Safety Programme aims ‘to make sure that residents of high-rise buildings are safe – and feel safe – now, and in the future.’

However, the programme does not answer the call of flat owners left with uncertainty and desperate to move now. The Government must provide urgent clarity over what homeowners who cannot sell nor get a mortgage can do. The onus also falls to mortgage lenders, who must become more willing to accept applications from people in these flats looking to remortgage.