Many constituents have raised concern with me regarding building safety in leasehold properties. Three years on from the Grenfell tragedy, 227 buildings are still covered in dangerous ACM cladding and thousands more are clad in non-ACM flammable material.
The Government’s lack of action over the last three years to tackle the building safety crisis has left thousands of leaseholders trapped in unsafe homes, which they are unable to sell or re-mortgage. They are being forced to pay enormous sums for remediation and interim fire safety measures such as ‘waking watch’.
I have raised local concerns with the Department for Housing, Communities and Local Government who maintain advice from the Independent Expert Advisory Panel is not legally binding. You can read the responses to my questions online here: https://questions-statements.parliament.uk/written-questions?SearchTerm=&DateFrom=19%2F12%2F2019&DateTo=31%2F03%2F2021&AnsweredFrom=&AnsweredTo=&House=Commons&MemberId=4491&Answered=Any&AnsweringBodyId=7&Expanded=True
In their letter of 1 October, Lord Greenhalgh explains that the new industry standard EWS1 form is not a Government document but they are aware lenders are now insisting on this for all mortgage applications. The Minister assures me MHCLG are working with the industry to address the resulting stalemate between lenders and building owners.
I have also asked the Financial Conduct Authority for an update on the advice they provide mortgage lenders regarding buildings safety advice. The Interim Executive Director of Strategy and Competition, Sheldon Mills, replied that the valuation of high-rise buildings has been complicated as fire-safety issues have come to light. Sheldon confirms that the EWS1 form is not a legal requirement and suggest mortgage intermediaries may have suggestions on more suitable products.
The Government must get a grip of the broken EWS1 system, and put in place a much faster and fairer process. Ministers must work with industry to speed up the rate at which buildings are being checked, clarify which buildings are in scope and correctly prioritise them.
Shadow Secretary of State for Housing, Thangam Debbonaire has written to Robert Jenrick about the EWS form and delays to remediation. Shadow Minister for Housing and Planning Mike Amesbury recently challenged the Government in the Commons to address the situation: https://twitter.com/mikeamesburymp/status/1313158369667153921?s=21
Further guidance and legal advice is available from the Leasehold Advisory Service here: https://www.lease-advice.org/.
My Labour colleagues and I will continue to press the Government for action on this situation.