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MPs vote against protecting leaseholders from fire safety costs

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Written by: Emma Lunn
23/03/2021
Amendments to the Fire Safety Bill intended to stop freeholders and building owners passing the costs of fixing building defects to leaseholders were defeated in a House of Commons vote on Monday evening.

The amendment was backed by Labour, but failed to attract sufficient Conservative support to pass, and was defeated 322 to 253. The government saw a rebellion of 29 Conservative MPs. The government’s majority was cut by half, falling from an expected 146 votes to just 69 votes.

The development comes nearly four years after the Grenfell Tower fire which killed 72 people.

Around the country, about 20,000 high-rise blocks still have the same cladding as on Grenfell Tower while thousands of others have other types of flammable cladding as well as various fire defects.

Campaigners have repeatedly called for the government to fund the removal of dangerous cladding and fix other fire safety defects. But, instead, thousands of leaseholders have been billed five-figure sums for cladding removal, remediation work and waking watches.

The government’s Building Safety Fund only covers grant funding for cladding removal on buildings taller than 18 metres. Leaseholders in smaller buildings will be forced to take out loans to pay for cladding remediation costs, with repayments capped at £50-a-month.

The fund doesn’t cover any other fire remediation works, only cladding, meaning leaseholders will still face crippling bills. Bankruptcy will be the only option for many.

The Fire Safety Bill will now return to the House of Lords, which must agree if it is to pass. However, the Lords has demonstrated its depth of feeling against the government’s approach, with a 78-vote majority in favour of inserting the amendment last week.

Sarah Jones MP, shadow minister for policing and the fire service, said: “This was another chance for the government to allow people up and down the country to sleep at night knowing they would be protected in law from fire safety costs they did not cause.

“Instead, the government has once again broken its promise to protect leaseholders, and it is blameless people who will pay the price.”

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