Tribunal rules that Citiscape residents are responsible for costs of Grenfell-style cladding

By - Tuesday 20th March, 2018

Residents are in discussion about whether or not they will appeal the tribunal’s ruling

Members of parliament called for leadership to prevent ‘second Grenfell Tower’ at a Westminster Hall debate.
Photo author’s own.

A tribunal has ruled that leaseholders in Citiscape are responsible for paying nearly £500,000 to keep their building safe.

By 16th February 2018, eight months after Grenfell Tower caught fire, the Building Safety Programme had identified 314 residential or public buildings over 18 metres in England with Aluminium Composite Material cladding (ACM), and 288 of these blocks are residential, according to a House of Commons briefing.

Private sector leaseholders such as residents in Citiscape – a Croydon residential building located at Drummond Road, CR0 1TW – have been told they would have to foot the bill for cladding removal.

The decision made by the tribunal states the costs incurred in the provision of the waking watch to 19 December 2017 were reasonable

The decision states a service charge is payable in respect of those costs. Further, it says there was insufficient evidence to determine the reasonableness of the costs incurred in the provision of the waking watch after 19 December, adding that either party may apply for a determination of the reasonableness of those costs after the end of the current service charge year.

Finally, it states that the estimated costs of £483,000 for the replacement of the cladding included in the 2017/18 budget was reasonable, and that a service charge is payable in respect of those estimated costs.

The ruling could be challenged. Residents of Citiscape have previously stated that they couldn’t afford the bill. Resident Anuj Vats said that the decision on whether or not to appeal the ruling is still being discussed.

Residents are planning to meet with a barrister soon to review the decision and their different options

Labour MP Steve Reed (Croydon North) said in a statement:

“The tribunal’s decision is the first time a judicial body has opened the door to a legal challenge to the government over the flawed fire safety rules that allowed flammable cladding to go up on Grenfell and hundreds of other blocks across the country.

“The government has consistently claimed the flammable cladding on Grenfell did not comply with the rules, but last week we saw a certificate authorising a similar material that was signed by the government’s chief advisor on the fire safety of buildings.

“It is crystal clear the government was responsible for allowing this cladding to go up so the government must accept responsibility for taking it down.”

Residents living in Citiscape are among hundreds across the country living in flammable cladding.

Though it was not related to the first-tier tribunal hearing itself, the ruling came after a 6th March Westminster Hall debate – secured by Reed – on cladding and remedial fire safety work. At the debate, Members of Parliament across the country called for government leadership and party unification to prevent a ‘second Grenfell Tower’.

Reed opened the debate by stating that the government should be responsible for the costs of removing the cladding. Other MPs echoed his statement.

Labour MP Sarah Jones (Croydon Central) said, “In my constituency, there is a block of flats built nine years ago with ACM cladding. At least, we are as sure of that as we can be. Residents were told that one set of cladding was ACM, and then that another set was ACM. They have been confused and let down from the start. The cladding needs to be replaced. There is a 24-hour waking watch, but residents are understandably nervous and of course anyone who wants to sell their flat clearly has no hope of doing that.”

Labour MP Mr David Lammy (Tottenham) said there needed to be more trust and transparency

Lammy also addressed comments about desktop studies which other MPs discussed.

He said, “As has been discussed, indifference to the context is now such that we might be moving to a situation in which desktop studies are done. Let us not dress that up in fancy language. It means that someone can sit in their office and determine a building’s fire regulations without going out and getting into the detail.”

Conservative MP Robert Neill further addressed Reed’s opening statement.

“A failure of regulation is a failure of governance, whoever was in government at the time, so ultimately the Government need to stand behind those affected, rather than expecting the costs to be picked up by individuals who did nothing and had no control over what happened,” he said.

Minister for Housing Dominic Raab did not concede

Minister for Housing Dominic Raab did not give way.

In his comments he addressed the points the MPs commented on during the debate. “The hon. Members for Croydon North and for Hammersmith asked about the role of desktop studies. We will consult on that shortly in response to the recommendations from the Hackitt review, so we are already taking some of the findings forward,” he said.

He told MPs the government was clear that the remediation should be done ‘as swiftly as possible, but it must be done properly’.

Mr Raab further addressed funding by stating that in the private sector the allocation of responsibility depends on the terms of the leasehold arrangements, as qualified by general law

He added the government has provided free legal advice and support through a range of measures.

He stated, “In the time available, I hope that I have illustrated not just the complexity of the challenge that we face across the private and social sectors, but the Government’s concerted effort to deal with the immediate issue of public safety and to ensure that the allocation of responsibility sits in the right place, which in our view is with the building owners.”

Holly Bernstein

Holly Bernstein

Holly Bernstein is a political reporter born and raised in Arizona. Back home she is a broadcast political reporter and presenter on Arizona PBS. She is in London chasing her dreams of covering politics around the world and believes in covering what matters anytime, anywhere.

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