In a surprise move that will relieve worried tower residents, UK property group Barratt Developments has agreed to pay for replacing the Grenfell-style cladding on an apartment complex in Croydon, south London, even though it doesn’t have to.
The company doesn’t own the building anymore and has no liability for the cladding, so its decision, announced to residents last week on 19 April, drew praise from a government minister who said Barratt had "done the right thing".
The Citiscape complex in Croydon, built in 2002, had the same cladding as Grenfell Tower (Zoopla)
Resident leaseholders at the Citiscape complex were facing a £2m bill to change the flammable cladding that appeared to accelerate the June 2017 fire at Grenfell Tower in west London that killed 71 people.
Some said they faced financial ruin after a London residential property tribunal ruled in March that the leaseholders themselves would have to foot the bill to make the cladding safe.
The cladding on Citiscape, built by Barratt in 2002, failed fire safety tests in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster even though it complied with building regulations at the time.
Building owners and residents around the UK will take keen note, since government data show that 301 buildings over 18 metres tall have Grenfell-type cladding, of which 130 are in the private sector.
The flammability of the aluminium composite cladding, which may nonetheless have complied with building regulations, has created a liability minefield for developers, residents and other stakeholders.
This played out at Citiscape. The building is now owned by the family trust of the property owner Vincent Tchenguiz. But the March tribunal case was brought by the building’s property management company, FirstPort Property Services, which sought clarification on who should pay.
With the legal landscape so uncertain, the government wants developers to face up to what might be called their moral obligation.
That’s why the UK’s secretary of state for housing, Sajid Javid, welcomed Barratt’s surprising move.
"I applaud Barratt Developments’ decision to cover the costs of fire safety works," Javid said.
"They have listened to the concerns of Citiscape residents, engaged with government and have done the right thing.
"Other building owners and house builders in the private sector should follow the example set by Barratt Developments to protect leaseholders from costs and begin essential fire safety works. I want to see all leaseholders in this position get the peace of mind they deserve and I am keeping this under review."
Barratt Developments said it wanted to put its customers first, even historical ones.
"Citiscape was built in line with all building regulations in place at the time of construction," the company said, reports Construction Manager.
"While we don’t own the building or have any liability for the cladding, we are committed to putting our customers first. The important thing now is ensuring that owners and residents have peace of mind."