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February 22, 2024

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Government urges councils to take action against ‘rogue’ building owners

The Minister for Housing and Building Safety, Lee Rowley, met council chiefs this week to discuss action against building owners who are failing to fix medium and high-rise buildings with safety issues.

The round table meeting of council chief executives comes after the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities provided over £8 million in funding to councils with aims to boost enforcement teams. The Minister asked councils to explain how this funding is being used to force ‘rogue’ building owners to act.

The meeting follows legal action the Government, leaseholders and councils have taken in recent months against building owners to make sure vital safety work is carried out.

“Action will be taken against you” 

Minister Lee Rowley added: “Councils and fire and rescue services play a crucial role in making sure dangerous buildings get fixed when building owners are stalling. Lots of councils are already doing great work in this area but all councils need to take the appropriate action to protect residents and make sure those responsible for making homes safe do so without any further delay.

“The warning to owners refusing fix their buildings is clear: get on with remediation or action will be taken against you.”

Further reading: 58% of unsafe buildings yet to start remediation works, government data shows

Government legal action meant that Grey GR, a subsidiary of RailPen – an organisation that has failed to remediate a substantial number of buildings – had to fix building safety issues at Galbraith House in Birmingham within three weeks, despite having known about the building safety defects for six years. The government is reportedly taking enforcement action covering six further Grey GR buildings with trials set to take place this year.

In addition to Grey GR, Wallace Estates, which is said to have consistently failed to fix building safety defects, it has now accepted remediation orders brought by the Government covering four buildings. This provides much-needed certainty for approximately 400 leaseholders by committing the company to dates for the completion of work.

This January the First-tier Tribunal issued a remediation order against Wallace Estates, following an application by leaseholders in Croydon. Wallace Estates were ordered to fix their unsafe building by May 2025, and were criticised for not acting fast enough to remediate defects they knew were present. In all five orders issued under the Building Safety Act to date, the First-tier Tribunal has ordered building owners to get on with fixing, or paying to fix, their unsafe buildings.

Further reading: Leaseholders obtain first remediation order under Building Safety Act for defective cladding

On Tuesday 20 February, council leaders discussed action they are taking using legal powers, including hearing from representatives from Newham Council who have prosecuted a building owner for delays in removing dangerous cladding – a significant step forward in the fight to protect residents from unsafe cladding.

In a press release, the Government added that where remediation is not progressing, building owners should expect to face ‘robust enforcement action’ from regulators – including councils – with the ‘full support’ of Government behind them. This commitment also outlined in the Government’s joint statement with building safety bodies on enforcing the remediation of fire safety defects.

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