Political party Reform UK has unveiled alternative proposals to help resolve the cladding crisis across the UK and to ensure that no property owners suffer financial loss from “dangerous and inadequate cladding installation, with builders, regulators and the government picking up the tab”.
In the wake of the Grenfell Tower Fire in 2017, new fire safety rules outlawed the use of ACM and other dangerous cladding materials, rendering hundreds of thousands of properties in the UK effectively unsaleable, unless cladding is removed and replaced with safer materials. This reportedly affects over one million people.
In addition, some are forced to pay huge sums of money to employ 24-hour fire wardens and inflated insurance premiums.
The package of measures, outlined at a virtual press conference by leader of Reform UK Richard Tice, included the implementation of a long-term funding and warranty solution, a guarantee that leaseholders do not have to pay for cladding and fire safety items and the introduction of a “polluter pays” principle.
The party’s proposals involve a three-step solution. Firstly the creation of a New Homes Warranty Scheme, (NHWS) which would absorb the existing National House Building Council with its £1.9bn of reserves and receive a matching cash injection from the government to total £4bn.
The NHWS would be responsible for the operational and financial responsibility of the cladding crisis as well as a new compulsory fit for purpose warranty scheme for all future new UK housebuilding with a fee of 1% of sale price paid by the housebuilder, according to the political party.
Secondly, Reform UK have proposed a guarantee that leaseholders don’t pay for cladding and fire safety related items, with the new scheme covering all claims and costs of all buildings, new or refurbished, impacted by the cladding crisis over the past 25 years regardless of height or age.
The scheme would be responsible for paying all past and future fire watch claims, insurance claims above normal cost, legal costs, installation fees and remedial costs to replace inadequate cladding materials. The government should loan to the NHWS the balance of monies required to meet these costs over and above the £4bn core funding, say Reform UK.
Finally, the introduction of a “polluter pays” principle which would see housebuilders still in business pay the costs associated with remedying the dangerous and inadequate cladding and other fire safety issues. Reform UK say housebuilders should face the penalty of having no more planning consents issued unless this commitment is met.
Richard Tice, leader of Reform UK, said: “The government’s handling of the cladding scandal has been woefully inadequate. Its proposals are discriminatory and halfhearted. Tens of thousands of people will be forced into bankruptcy rather than face more huge costs through no fault of their own. The Government knows this, but just does not care.
“The scandal is the product of decades of failure. Firstly, by Government, due to the weak building regulations that were badly enforced by inspectors, some of whom were too close to the housebuilders. Secondly by the Housebuilding industry, which has a long track record of poor quality of construction and poor customer service.
“They created a veneer of warranty comfort by establishing an industry warranty insurance provider, the National House Building Council which has failed to step up to the plate in this crisis, instead trying to evade its obligations.
“The only people not at fault in this scandal are the homeowners, yet they are the ones being forced to pay huge, unaffordable sums. It is grotesquely unfair.
“Reform UK are the only party providing a clear and fair long-term plan to resolve the cladding crisis. Reform UK is offering a long-term funding and warranty solution alongside a steadfast guarantee that leaseholders would not pay for cladding and fire safety related items.
”I have been involved in building new homes over three decades and have seen the issues facing millions firsthand. The truth about construction is that it can over time involve new technology and sometimes there are problems. Asbestos 80 years ago, high alumina cement 60 years ago, timber framed homes 40 years ago, and now cladding over the last 20 years.
“The whole point of a warranty insurance scheme is to protect against exactly this sort of issue, yet the industry and the NHBC have failed their customers. “
This post has originally been featured in Property Wire.