Boris Johnson pledges to help victims of the cladding scandal and says leaseholders shouldn’t foot the bill for defects
- PM said Government ‘determined’ home owners would not have to pay the bills
- Campaigners said ministers yet to follow up on commitments made in the past
- Over a million homeowners have been left unable to sell or remortgage flats
- Ministers set aside £1.6bn for repairs but MPs estimate total is closer to £15bn
Boris Johnson yesterday pledged to protect leaseholders from the ‘unaffordable costs’ of fixing unsafe homes.
The Prime Minister said the Government was ‘determined’ that home owners would not have to pay crippling bills to correct fire safety defects that ‘are no fault of their own’.
The promise comes after the Daily Mail highlighted the desperate plight of people facing average bills of £40,000 to fix fire-trap flats.
However, campaigners said ministers had made similar commitments in the past but had yet to follow up. They stressed immediate action is needed.
Boris Johnson, pictured above, yesterday pledged to protect leaseholders from the ‘unaffordable costs’ of fixing unsafe homes
More than a million homeowners have been left unable to sell or remortgage their flats since the Grenfell tower inferno, which killed 72 people in west London in June 2017. The Daily Mail is campaigning to end the scandal.
We are demanding ministers ensure that dangerous homes are made safe within 18 months and that leaseholders do not have to pay.
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer highlighted the plight of junior doctor Will Martin, 32, from Sheffield, during Prime Minister’s Questions yesterday.
He said Dr Martin had been ‘spending his days on the frontline fighting Covid in the NHS’ and ‘spends his nights worrying about the £52,000 bill that he now has to pay for fire safety repairs’.
Asked if the doctor will have to pay the bill, Mr Johnson replied: ‘We are determined that no leaseholder should have to pay for the unaffordable costs of fixing safety defects that they didn’t cause and are no fault of their own.’
The Prime Minister later appeared to rule out plans to make leaseholders cover costs through loans, which have been heavily criticised by campaigners.
More than a million homeowners have been left unable to sell or remortgage their flats since the Grenfell tower inferno (pictured: a file photo of Grenfell tower in west London)
Tory MP Stephen McPartland asked the PM for assurances that cladding victims will not have to pay and ‘also to rule out loans to leaseholders’ as a solution.
Mr Johnson replied: ‘Yes, as I said earlier on, we’re absolutely clear that leaseholders should not have to worry about the cost of fixing historic safety defects that they didn’t cause.’
But the housing ministry later would not comment on whether loans were no longer being considered. A spokesman said: ‘We are working at pace to develop further financial solutions to protect leaseholders from unaffordable costs.’
Giles Grover, of the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign, welcomed Mr Johnson’s comments, but said: ‘We have heard the same empty words for years and it is well past time for action.’
He added: ‘To be clear – any sum that makes leaseholders liable for the multiple failings of Government regulation and the building industry is “unaffordable” and morally wrong.’
It follows a heated debate in the Commons on Monday, in which Stevenage MP Mr McPartland accused ministers of ‘incompetence’ in handling the crisis.
Contractors pictured undertaking works at a residential property in Paddington, London, on January 20 as part of a project to remove and replace non-compliant cladding
He has tabled an amendment to the Fire Safety Bill alongside Tory colleague Royston Smith, which seeks to protect leaseholders from the costs of fixing historic fire safety defects.
It has the support of 36 Conservative backbenchers and needs eight more to overturn the Government’s working majority.
Legal experts yesterday joined calls to spare leaseholders the costs. The Law Society, which represents solicitors in England and Wales, said homeowners should ‘not have to pay the price for a system that failed to protect them’.
It warned the crisis is causing sales to collapse and could lead to ‘significant disruption’ in the housing market and wider economy if urgent action is not taken.
Ministers have set aside £1.6billion to fund repairs, but MPs estimate the total cost will be closer to £15billion. Mr Johnson said Chancellor Rishi Sunak and Housing Secretary Robert Jenrick would be ‘coming forward with a full package’.
The Mail understands the housing ministry is lobbying the Treasury for a £10billion pot, including a levy on developers. An announcement is expected in weeks.