Developers must commit to fixing unsafe tower blocks or face ban, says Gove
Housing developers have been ordered by Michael Gove to commit to repairing unsafe buildings or be banned from the market.
The housing minister on Monday announced a six-week deadline for developers to sign a government contract to fix troubled towers over 11 meters tall that have been in existence for the past 30 years.
Companies that don’t sign up will be barred from “major developments and building control approval for buildings already under construction” under the so-called “Responsible Actor Scheme”, due to be set up in the spring.
In a written ministerial statement, Mr Gove said: “Developers and building owners responsible for unsafe buildings should have no doubt: there will be significant consequences if they fail to meet their legal obligations.”
Safety deficiencies in high-rise buildings were brought to light by the 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy in west London, which left 72 people dead.
An investigation found that the building’s cladding helped spread the fire because it was made of highly flammable material.
Mr Gove conceded over the weekend that the government had failed to regulate the industry enough, telling the Sunday Times: “I believe that (the guidance) was so flawed and ambiguous that it allowed unscrupulous people to pick up a broken system a way that led to tragedy”.
The new initiative will create a “common framework of rights and obligations” that will allow tenants to repair buildings free of charge, the minister said in his ministerial statement.
As part of the deal, developers will also be required to reimburse taxpayers for public money already spent on refurbishing unsafe high-rise buildings.
In a further step to lower costs for tenants, Mr Gove said he would ban the “unacceptable practice” of management agents, landlords and landowners charging tenant commissions when they take out property insurance.
Shadow housing secretary Lisa Nandy said Labor supports the responsible actor principle.
“However, the Secretary of State has previously claimed that he is strict in this regard. It’s been a year since he last made that request to developers.
“Five years after the Grenfell tragedy, only 7 per cent of fire-prone homes have been repaired and millions are still left with unsaleable homes and staggering bills.
“People need action, not gestures, so Labor will be pressing ministers for tough, urgent deadlines for remedial action linked to this system and further action to ensure fair liability for the winding industry, including manufacturers of unsafe cladding and insulation.
“Six months ago Labor called for a new Tenant Reform Bill to put an end to this mysterious system. We urge ministers again to present this law without delay.”