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Building Safety Remediation Scheme: A Crucial Step Towards Ensuring Safe Homes for All
Deepa Mistry FCCA, Building Safety Crisis
“Following the tragic fire at Grenfell where 72 innocent people lost their lives, there has been a Pandora’s box discovery of a quagmire of decades of building safety failures. That’s right, in this day and age, in the UK, we are living in potential death traps because of flammable cladding, insulation, poor fire breaks, and so on. This list is scarily, growing by the day.”
I wrote these words two and a half years ago under the expectation that I certainly wouldn’t be where I am today.
Where I am today, is exactly no further from unburdening myself of the property I purchased in 2010 under a governmental shared ownership scheme that after Grenfell in 2017 was discovered to be enveloped in a similarly and equally dangerous form of cladding. Failed attempts at selling the property highlighted how serious an issue and how widespread this problem was, and led to my devoting an incredible amount of personal time to solving the “Building Safety Crisis”.
What I hadn’t fully understood was that even though my building had been remediated by 2018, there was an inherent lack of trust running through the industry, with the resident incorrectly shouldering the responsibility.
What is known is that the aluminium cladding on many post-2000 buildings is dangerous, they are proven to be flammable, as is the insulation, and along with missing firebreaks would spread a fire quicker than was safe to evacuate all residents or get under control.
As a result of deregulation to speed up the homebuilding process and attract more homeownership in the UK, decades of cost-cutting led to the bottom line being more important than residential safety. The cladding needs to come off. The firebreaks need to be built in. The fire alarm systems should be in place. Effective fire management systems should have been fitted at the time of building such as sprinklers.
They are in the offices we work in, so why has this been neglected in the homes we live in? I spent months watching contractors put up scaffolding to remove cladding, insulation, and membrane; then leave my building naked for 5 months in the cold winter season. I watched the Waking Watch security patrol my building and sit in the top stairwell with headphones in, unaware of any risks. I watched with joy the scaffolding come down until I attempted to start the sales process.
This crisis is all about trust, homeowners do not trust constructors and so won’t buy again, lenders do not trust the constructors and so won’t mortgage a property, and insurers do not trust the constructors so increase premiums. This all led to the development of a certification called the EWS1 form (External Wall System) in an attempt to restore that trust. The trouble was, however, trying to find enough suitably qualified engineers with the appropriate level of personal indemnity to assess and sign off an EWS1.
This small pool was less than 300 in number, and with a potential 4.5m leaseholders affected, this meant surveying blocks with approximately 1.9-2.2m dwellings (source Fire Safety Bill, IA HO0365, March 2020). The possibility of being assessed turned into an estimated wait of 10 years, even though we were already remediated. I couldn’t wait 10 years to know if my building was safe, with my daughter and sons growing up teenagers still sharing a bedroom. Something had to be done.
Speaking to other residents I realised there were hundreds of stories similar to mine; of lives on hold – weddings and families delayed, job and career moves affected, home moves halted. I could not sit back and watch us live this stress day in and day out, and co-founded a community at Building Safety Crisis Ltd where we could share information and have a voice. This entirely voluntarily run organisation was the platform to launch the people’s solution to the crisis and was informally known as “Polluter Pays”. Through many iterations, it was an answer to the question of “who pays”, “who is responsible” and “how soon”. In 2022 it was debated by MPs and Lords in the House of Commons and House of Lords.
Government removed through this work, the ruinous proposed Leaseholder Loans. In 2023, the formal amendment known as the Building Safety Remediation Scheme will be tabled as an amendment to the Levelling Up and Regeneration Bill. There are groups of leaseholders excluded in current legislation whom this amendment will protect: those in buildings under 11m, blocks where the developer does not exist, and leaseholders with more than three properties. It also offers full protection for waking watch, cladding, and non-cladding costs.
The key here is to ensure all buildings are checked, liability correctly assigned and to stop dangerous quality building as we have seen so far. By using individual building determinations, liability is assigned outside of the courts. This speeds up the availability of money and implementation of remediation schemes. Cladding manufacturers will be held accountable for their part in the crisis through the expanded levy.
This will restore the trust within the industry that has been lacking over the last few years. We have been waiting for over six years, and face an urgent situation as people are living in dangerous buildings and during this time there have been over 25 fire safety-related full building evacuations. Without the protections, blocks will continue to be unremediated, cause untold stress, a mental health crisis, and delay lives further. Please support the Earl of Lytton’s Building Safety Remediation Scheme and allow residents to live safely.
Deepa Mistry FCCA, Building Safety Crisis
Chief Executive Officer
Deepa Mistry FCCA is a Senior Financial professional and Board member in the not-for-profit sector, STEM Ambassador, mother of three, and leaseholder affected by dangerous building cladding. As CEO of Building Safety Crisis Ltd, Deepa is heavily involved in the Polluter Pays legislation and is the winner of the Women in Fire Safety Award for Education in 2022, Finalist of the Brunel University Alumni of the Year 2023, Highly Commended Woman in Fire Safety 2023, nominee for the National Federation of Building Top 100 Women in Construction and Women in Construction Influencer. Her aim is to make the residential environment safer for all, regardless of race, gender, and social background.