Fire Safety Bill

I have been following this important legislation and I am aware of the amendment to the Bill by the House of Lords prohibiting the passing of remediation costs on to leaseholders and tenants. I entirely support the intention of the amendment to protect leaseholders. However, for a number of reasons outlined below I do not support the amendment itself. 

Most importantly, this Bill is not the correct place for remediation costs to be addressed. The Government has already committed that it will provide an update regarding remediation costs before the Building Safety Bill returns to Parliament. In addition, work is currently underway with leaseholders and the financial sector to identify financing solutions that protect leaseholders from unaffordable costs while ensuring that the cost does not fall entirely on taxpayers. I hope we can agree that it is important not to interrupt these discussions. Therefore, I fear this particular amendment could lead to unnecessary confusion.

It is the Government's clearly stated intention to follow through on the recommendations of phase one of the Grenfell fire inquiry and this Bill is part of that process. 

Regarding EWS1 forms, my ministerial colleagues recognise the difficulties some people are facing on mortgages and expect lenders to do all they can to unblock these issues for leaseholders.  The Government does not support the blanket use of External Wall System Review forms and encourage lenders to accept equivalent evidence that demonstrates buildings are safe for valuation purposes. The form is not a regulatory requirement and  the Government has urged for a more pragmatic approach, especially for lower rise blocks.

The EWS1 form was developed by the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors to respond to mortgage lender concerns about cladding on high-rise residential buildings. Lenders have confirmed that product transfers at the end of fixed-term mortgage offers within the same bank should progress without the need for an EWS1 review. However, building owners of high rise residential building 18 metres and above need to confirm the cladding system in their buildings through an EWS1 for new mortgages or when re-mortgaging. Guidance from the Royal Institution does state that the form should not be used for other purposes. I am told that lenders have assured the Minister for Building Safety that leaseholders should face no barrier to renewing their mortgage with their existing lender.

The Fire Safety Bill sets the foundation for implementing the recommendations from the Grenfell Tower Inquiry, which we all want to see set in law. I am glad that the Bill has now progressed in Parliament, paving the way for more accountability from building owners and enforcement from fire and rescue authorities to hold irresponsible owners to account.