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Cladding crisis: Government launches online checker that tells flat-owners if they need to pay to make their building safe

Flat-owners impacted by the cladding crisis are being urged to use a new online tool to check whether they need to pay towards any costs of making their building safe. New legislation means most homeowners won't be responsible for footing the bill for remedial cladding work, so this tool can help reassure those affected by confirming whether they'll be hit with a bill of £1,000s or even £10,000s.

The problem of unsafe cladding has been a major issue for the Government since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, which killed 72 people.

The launch of the online checker coincides with other measures designed to ensure the cost of removing cladding from unsafe buildings will not be the responsibility of flat-owners.

This includes the passing into law on 28 June of the Building Safety Act, which guarantees that most leasehold flat-owners living in blocks greater than 11 metres in height won't have to cover the cost of any cladding-related work. In the first instance, this burden will fall on the building developer or owner.

And today (Thursday), alongside the launch of the online checker, the Government has announced the reopening of the Building Safety Fund, which'll provide £4.5 billion worth of funding to fix unsafe cladding on high-rise blocks.

My building has cladding on it – what does this online checker do?

Under the Building Safety Act, most flat-owners are exempt from covering costs related to the removal of unsafe cladding, providing they fit the following qualifying criteria:

  • You live in a building that is above 11 metres in height. Or a building that is at least five storeys high, including the ground floor.

  • You were living in the building on 14 February 2022 and it was your main home. However, you won't qualify if you owned more than three properties in the UK at this time.

As not everyone's circumstances are the same, you can now use the Government's online checker to confirm whether or not you'll be liable to share some of the costs. To use the checker, you'll need to answer a few questions relating to your property and the building it is part of.

Where you are exempt from paying for cladding removal, you will need to fill in this "deed of certificate", then submit this to the owner of your block. 

This protection will automatically transfer to any future buyer of your property. This means that any new owner of a property that was eligible for the exemption on 14 February 2022 will be covered.

Are there any non-cladding costs I might be liable to pay instead?

In some circumstances, the cost of fixing non-cladding safety issues might become your responsibility. For example, replacing inadequate fire doors.

Again, you can use the Government's online checker to see if you will be impacted by this.

In the first instance, the developer or owner of the building will be legally liable to cover the cost of non-cladding work, providing they pass a wealth threshold.

Where the developer or owner of the building isn't legally liable, or they are but don't pass the wealth threshold, it's possible these costs will be passed to you. Costs will be payable over 10 years and the amount you're responsible for will be capped at the following thresholds:

  • Zero. You won't be liable to cover any non-cladding safety costs if your property is worth less than £175,000 (or less than £325,000 in London).

  • £10,000 (£15,000 in London). Where your property is worth more than £175,000 but less than £1 million.

  • £50,000. Where your property is worth more than £1 million.

I am exempt from paying cladding costs. Who will have to foot the bill?

Where you are exempt from covering any cladding costs, responsibility will in the first place rest with the owner or developer of your building – they legally can not pass on any of these costs to you.

Where a developer cannot be found or simply refuses to pay for the remedial work, buildings over 18 metres in height will be able to apply for money from the newly reopened Building Safety Fund, which has a pot worth £4.5 billion. 

For buildings between 11 and 18 metres in height, a new fund, yet to be finalised, will cover the cost of removing cladding. 

According to the Government, 48 of the biggest housing developers have already pledged to take responsibility for addressing safety defects on buildings over 11 metres that they had a role in developing or refurbishing over the past 30 years, even where they no longer own them.

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