In the aftermath of the shocking events of the Grenfell Tower tragedy, the First -tier Tribunal recently considered an important application on the issue of who was to pay for the costs of various safety measures to a block of flats. The managers of the building applied to the Tribunal for a declaration as to the reasonableness of various charges for safety measures.
Following the fire, the manager of the block realised that the cladding to their building might be a fire risk as well. The manager instructed a fire marshal to patrol the building. A second fire marshal was later instructed, and the cost of this waking watch service was £263,000 per year.
Surveyors reported on replacing the cladding at the building as it was of a similar type to that used at Grenfell Tower. The surveyors recommended two possible option: firstly, removing and replacing the cladding in one project at a cost of £1.8 million or, secondly, replacing and removing the cladding in phases costing £2.5 million. Both options were far more expensive than the estimated cost of replacing the cladding in the budget for 2017 in the sum of £483,000.
The tribunal held that it had been reasonable for the manager to instruct the fire marshals and the cost of the marshals was not unreasonable. The costs incurred in employing the waking watch service for three months until December 2017 was reasonable, but the tribunal was not able to reach a conclusion as to the reasonableness of the waking watch charges going forward after December 2017. The waking watch charges were also recoverable from the leaseholders under the terms of the leases.
In addition, the estimated cost of the recladding in the budget of £483,000 was reasonable under section 19(2) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 and it was for the leaseholders to pay for the removal of the defective cladding and its replacement. The Tribunal indicated that the leaseholders may have claims, in due course, against the makers of the cladding and the developers. Based on this decision though, it looks like the cost of any urgent recladding works will fall on leaseholders up and down the country, a high pay to pay for the failings of others.
Ross Paterson, Solicitor, 17th April 2018