TV property expert Phil Spencer says the Government needs to pay the bill to renovate up to 1.5million homes with unsafe cladding
TV property expert Phil Spencer says the Government needs to pay the bill to renovate up to 1.5million homes with unsafe cladding.
He said the situation ‘cannot resolve itself’ and that houseowners – who bought their homes without knowing they were built using dangerous materials – cannot afford to cover the cost.
The estimated bill for repairs could be as high as £15billion.
Mr Spencer – a qualified surveyor who worked in the property business before presenting Location, Location, Location – said the crisis had brought the housing market to a standstill because affected properties are often starter homes in cities.
He said: ‘It means the starter flat is removed from the housing market. The bottom rung of the property ladder is broken and that affects everybody because nobody can move on and starter homes are not available to first time buyers.
‘It’s a real mess. The Government have to step in because they can’t leave it alone.
‘If forced to pay the costs, householders will go bankrupt left, right and centre, and the housing market will break.
‘The longer this goes on, the greater the damage. But the situation can be cleared up quickly. Government funding promised so far of £1.6billion doesn’t touch the sides of the problem.’
Many buildings found to have fire safety problems have been built with other types of cladding than the aluminium composite panels used at Grenfell Tower, or have wooden panels or balconies.
Mr Spencer said: ‘The Government has a duty to step in and help, and sort out the money afterwards – whether through insurers or through the courts.’
But he added that while the Government may target developers or manufacturers of building materials which turned out to be unsafe, householders should not be liable.
‘They bought the properties in good faith, many of them using Government schemes like help to buy,’ Mr Spencer, pictured, said.
‘The flats were built under Government regulations, which have turned out not to be up to scratch.’
On Wednesday Money Mail revealed that 30,000 flat sales may have collapsed due to potentially unsafe cladding – and experts warned the number could hit six figures if ministers do not step in.
Problems are compounded by the fact just 300 chartered fire engineers in Britain are qualified to carry out an external wall survey which is required before flats built with any cladding can be put on the market.
Many buildings found to have fire safety problems have been built with other types of cladding than the aluminium composite panels used at Grenfell Tower, or have wooden panels or balconies
The survey, known as an EWS1 form, confirms properties are free of dangerous cladding or, if it exists, to provide an explanation of what remediation work is necessary before a mortgage can be granted.
Around nine in ten homes assessed have been told their building requires repairs, according to campaign group the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership. Properties in that situation are unsaleable as banks will not lend mortgages to buyers until safety issues are resolved.
Kate Henderson, chief executive of the National Housing Federation, said: ‘A really significant part of the flat market in England is currently frozen.
‘This is clearly unsustainable for the property market and it is not acceptable for so many people’s lives to be on hold – with so much uncertainty and anxiety – for such a long time.’
Affected properties are in towns and cities up and down the country, as many modern apartment blocks have been built without using traditional materials such as brick and stone.
Most are leaseholds, meaning people own their flat but must pay ground rent to a service company for the building.
Repairs to flammable cladding would normally be organised by the service company – which would pass on a proportion of the cost to the leaseholders.
Labour MP Clive Betts, who chairs the housing, communities and local government committee, said that ministers ‘should carry out the work, then try to claim the money back’.
He called the scandal of flammable cladding ‘probably the biggest building fiasco in modern times’.
A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said officials are trying to persuade banks that EWS1 forms are not necessary for buildings which are lower than 60ft.
He said: ‘There is other evidence that can prove a building is safe and we want lenders to accept this.’
The spokesman added the Government is ‘looking to see what else we can do to support leaseholders’.