Massive cost after Grenfell cladding found on my building?

by Readers Question

3 weeks ago

Massive cost after Grenfell cladding found on my building?

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Massive cost after Grenfell cladding found on my building?

The Grenfell fire has quite rightly forced all owners of high-rise blocks of flats to consider their safety, and in particular, analyse their cladding, if any.

I am the leaseholder of a flat in such a building.

It has been told it has the same cladding as Grenfell Tower, and must be removed and replaced, at a cost of over one million pounds. Each of the 90+ privately owned flats is about to be billed (over two years) for £13,500, plus a further £5000 for additional safety measures that have been recommended (fire-watch, etc.)

The insurance company have stated that as the building has not been damaged, they are not involved.

The Management company is convinced we should all have to pay – apart from their employer – the Freeholder.

It will ruin many leaseholders, including me.

Is the Freeholder liable – for allowing such a situation to take place about eight years ago, or inheriting such a situation (before they actually bought the Freehold!) We are putting our faith in our local M.P.

Anyone else having this same problem?

James

Comments

Ian Narbeth

3 weeks ago

Hi James
I am sorry for your bad luck. However, I think the management company is right. This is a case where the law says a loss must "lie where it falls".
I very much doubt you will be able to show the freeholder was negligent, even if the freeholder did specify the cladding. 8 years ago (even 8 months ago before the Grenfell fire) hardly anybody was aware of the scale of the problem. I cannot see how the freeholder can be liable for inheriting a problem. It will cost tens of thousand of pounds to try to sue the freeholder and even if you could establish liability, does the freeholder have £1million? If not, then the leaseholders will still have to find money to pay for the work.
It also looks right that the insurers are not liable. Damage has not occurred. Indeed you may find that the insurers refuse to renew cover and/or increase premiums until the defective cladding is replaced.
In the meantime you may find the flats are difficult to sell/reduced in value because of the issue. If you sue the freeholder, you will have to disclose the dispute to any purchaser.

Sorry not to have better news but I trust this is realistic. You might see if you can take out a loan to cover the £13,500 cost and pay it off over a longer period.

dp1 Django

3 weeks ago

I could be barking up the wrong tree but if the cladding was installed after it was known to be dangerous then someone was negligent and might be sued. Eg in 2014 there was a cladding related fire in Melbourne, it's not a new discovery. Plus the cladding is allegedly already banned in the UK
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/grenfell-tower-flammable-cladding-banned-in-uk-philip-hammond-germany-us-a7795696.html

So perhaps a some digging and a chat with a specialist solicitor is in order. On the plus side, a group of you are in the same boat so can club together for costs.

At the very least don't do anything to accept liability for the cost without taking independent advice.

Laura Delow

3 weeks ago

I'm assuming the block was built more than 10 years ago otherwise there might be a claim against the NHBC policy?

David Price

3 weeks ago

You also have to consider that whatever the rights or wrongs of liability the freeholder may not have the necessary funds to finance the work, in which case there is only one group which can be billed - the final users - ie the leaseholders.

James Noble

3 weeks ago

Property over 10 years old. Cladding added in 2008.
Oh dear. Not what I wanted to read...... £18.5k is a lot of money. Did I hear that such bills might be capped to £10k, or was that just wishful thinking?

Giles Peaker

3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by James Noble at 02/11/2017 - 18:26
Wishful thinking I'm afraid. That was 'Florries Law' which only applies to social landlord and even then only if doing works part funded with specific govt grant funding (so none of them now).

If the leaseholders were charged for putting the cladding on in the first place, there may be an argument, but if this is 'as built' and met then current building regulations, doubt it can be challenged - unless it is work that wouldn't be covered by the relevant lease clauses. On that, you would need proper advice.

Ian Narbeth

3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Giles Peaker at 02/11/2017 - 21:04
I hadn't heard of Florries Law but soon found this official article: https://www.gov.uk/government/news/flos-law-new-cap-for-council-house-repairs-comes-into-force
Given that the work was unnecessary - the roof would have lasted 40 years - I think we can fairly describe Newham as a "rogue council" in light of their behaviour in that case.

Where works to a building are necessary they either get done and the tenants pay for them or they are not done (or are only partly done) and a problem may become worse and even more expensive to fix later. If the tenants are not to pay the full cost under the Social Landlords Mandatory Reduction of Service Charges (England) Directions 2014 and the Social Landlords Discretionary Reduction of Service Charges (England) Directions 2014 then either Council Tax payers and Business rate payers subsidise social tenants or the work won't get done. The regulations don't solve the problem of paying for necessary repairs.

Appreciate this is going off at a tangent and doesn't really help James as a private leaseholder. By all means join with other leaseholders to see if there is any claim against the freeholder but as the defective cladding was put in 9 years ago you will also be faced with limitation period defences even if fault and liability could be established.

Paul Fay

3 weeks ago

I am not a lawyer, however, my understanding is that if the developer did not meet the requirements of the building regulations at the time, (which it wouldn't if less than 12 years old) they will be liable unless the statutory limitation period has expired. For a contract under seal the limitation period is 12 years. I suspect that only the original purchaser has contractual remedies.

If you are not the original leaseholder or the property is over 12 years old I suspect that you are out of options.

A mortgage company has an interest in the property and to protect that interest they would probably add your share to the mortgage.

I looked at a flat recently. Built in 2008 with timber cladding. How that got past building control I'll never know.

https://www.designingbuildings.co.uk/wiki/Contracts_under_seal_v_under_hand

Good luck

Paul Fay

3 weeks ago

Just noted that the OP indicated that the cladding was added 8 years ago. This is outside of the 6 year limitation period but within the 15 year long stop under the latent damages act. You (it will be the freeholder If he was the one in contract with the specifier) have 3 years to instigate proceedings from the date of becoming aware of the issue.

The leaseholders need to collectively instruct a lawyer but I think that you may have a case.

Giles Peaker

3 weeks ago

Reply to the comment left by Paul Fay at 03/11/2017 - 20:49
The cladding would almost certainly have passed building control/planning requirements at the time. This is the issue that Grenfell has revealed.

Limitation (due to section 1 Defective Premises Act) is 6 years from completion of the building. But if the building/cladding met building regs/planning requirements at the time, then no claim even under Defective Premises Act (which would be time barred anyway).

Latent damages limitation is 6 years, or 3 years from knowledge of defect, but only applies to negligence claims. If cladding met the regs at the time, no negligence claim.

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