14th February 2022
Shortly after the third reading in the House of Commons on 19 January 2022 the Building Safety Bill passed the second reading in the House of Lords.
Recent public focus has been on the recent announcement from Michael Gove MP that developers will be forced to pay for remediation of unsafe cladding on certain residential buildings. There was extensive debate on this issue, and rather less on other legal issues raised by the Bill.
Lord Greenhalgh, Minister of State, Home Office and Department for Levelling Up, Housing & Communities opened the debate with discussion of improving the building safety regulatory regime. He referred also to the extension of the limitation periods under the Defective Premises Act 1972 as we reported on in our 27 January 2022 note.
There was little further detail of the mechanism of raising the billions of pounds from developers, the Minister noted that the government is now engaged with industry to ensure that it pays its fair share for fixing cladding problems rather than the leaseholders.’ This was not enough to satisfy the opposition spokesperson, Baroness Hayman, who replied that ‘The Government and the housing and development industries must be prepared to fund, in full, both cladding and non-cladding remediation works. As it stands, the Bill simply does not go far enough to address these issues.’
Lord Young referred to Government statements on the proposals of statutory protection for leaseholders, but he observed that nothing in these statements or in the Bill at the moment give a guarantee as to leaseholder protection, nor as to how it will be done.
Lady Hayman also raised concerns with the application of the amendments to the Defective Premises Act 1972, in particular ‘the cost and time implications’ of making claims.
Lord Etherton raised concerns with part 5 of the Bill which provides for amendments to the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 which provides how landlords are to seek remediation costs, failing which tenants may apply to the court for an order that the service charge be abated. He worried that this would lead to ‘the most enormous amount of dispute’ in what he referred to as ‘ a special court designed to deal with it, the Technology and Construction Court.’
A further point of interest to our readers was raised by Lord Aberdare who focused on cash retentions and what he considered the need for legislation to exclude their use except where circumstances require, in which case funds could be held in a trust account.
The Minister noted that the deadline for Committee was 14 February, today, when the Government will bring forward amendments. There was broad cross-party support in the Lords for the Bill, and we will report on the remaining stages with interest.
Author: George Woods
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