Hundreds of thousands of flawless tenants are being forced to pay to fix fire safety flaws after MPs voted against an amendment that would have offered protection against crippling costs.
A House of Lords amendment to the Fire Safety Bill would have ensured that tenants of unsaleable and potentially dangerous apartments would not foot the bill for siding replacement and repairing other defects exposed over the four years since the Grenfell Tower tragedy.
Thirty-one Tory MPs rebelled against the government’s approach to the escalating scandal, with former party leader Sir Iain Duncan Smith joining the splinter group.
But it was not enough to support the Lords amendment, which was rejected by 320 votes to 256. The bill will now go to the Lords, who are expected to vote again in favor of an amendment.
Christopher Pincher, the Minister of Housing, said the proposed changes could place an undue burden on the taxpayer and further delay the consolidation process.
Liam Spender, a lawyer who lives in an apartment with fire safety flaws, said Mr Pincher’s speech had “little legal substance.”
“It is a political choice for the government – if it makes that choice, it can remove any legal obstacles,” Spender said.
“I think it’s inevitable that the taxpayer will have to provide liquidity while the government seeks to charge the industry.”
Tenants have already been forced to hand over thousands of pounds for interim costs such as security patrols, fire alarms and rising insurance premiums. They may face a wait of several years before the blocks can be resolved due to a lack of skills required to complete the job and a lack of UK-wide assessment of which blocks to prioritize .
Some tenants have considered declaring bankruptcy while others have sold their homes at a large loss in order to escape bills they cannot afford. The Bank of England is currently investigating whether the large number of unsaleable apartments could derail the housing market and trigger another financial crisis.
In a Commons debate on Tuesday, MPs from all parties criticized the government’s inability to address the problem.
Tory MP Liam Fox tabled a separate amendment that would have ensured that the government pays to make buildings safe and then seeks to recoup money from the parties responsible for substandard construction work on the ‘polluter pays’ principle.
Mr Fox said: “We have to find a way forward. We cannot continue this outdated ping-pong between the two houses of parliament, we need a real plan.
The fact that tenants may have to give up their homes if they cannot afford “unfair” siding costs is “abhorrent,” he said.
Voting in favor of the amendment, fellow Conservative MP Royston Smith said, “The longer this debate goes on, the more damaging it becomes for the government and the worse for the innocent tenants.”
Sarah Jones, Minister of Shadow Police and Labor Firefighters, accused the government of “betrayal” of repeated promises by ministers that tenants would not pay to replace fuel ducts.
So far the government has announced £ 5.1bn in funding, but estimated costs have climbed to £ 15bn as tenants take up most of the £ 10bn deficit without being at fault .
The funding only covers the siding, not a litany of other fire safety issues that have been discovered.
Under current plans, tenants in buildings six stories or less will be forced to take out long-term loans that risk significantly devaluing their homes.
Tenants have few legal options. They often cannot get money back from developers, even if the building rules were not followed at the time of construction.
Stevenage MP Stephen McPartland, who also tabled an amendment to the fire safety bill to protect tenants from remediation costs, said: “Our request is simple: implement Grenfell recommendations, secure homes and protect tenants from financial ruin.
He added: “Houses need to be secure. It is a fundamental human right. “
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This notice was published: 2021-04-27 19:36:53