Cladding: Developers could be sued over fire safety defects

Developers refusing to pay to fix fire safety defects could face legal action from the Welsh government, the first minister has said. Mark Drakeford said ministers would ensure leaseholders “don’t end up having to foot the bill”.

He said he did not expect firms “failing to play their part” to “go on working here in Wales”.
In England, developers not signing government contracts to fix unsafe towers will be banned from the market. In January, English Housing Secretary Michael Gove gave firms a six-week deadline to sign up. Following the 2017 Grenfell Tower tragedy in London, a number of apartment blocks in Wales were found to have fire safety defects.

Work fixing defects on many of these blocks is yet to be carried out, amid rows over who should pay. Many homeowners have been left unable to sell their flats, and paying higher insurance and service charge fees. Last week, the campaign group the Welsh Cladiators accused the Welsh government of making a “serious mistake” by not adopting UK laws protecting leaseholders and forcing developers to fund repairs.

Senedd Conservative leader Andrew RT Davies backed the calls for the changes to the law during First Minister’s Questions in the Welsh Parliament on Tuesday. He said it was vital “developers step up to the plate” so leaseholders “aren’t put in a disadvantaged position”.
Mr Drakeford responded: “I fully agree, and it’s been the position of the Welsh government throughout that those who are responsible for the faults in the construction of those buildings should take responsibility for its remediation.”

He stressed that 11 firms, the “considerable bulk of developers” in Wales, had “come forward and given that commitment”. “And therefore we should work with them to make sure that they deliver exactly what they have committed to do.” “Where developers clearly fail to play their part, then absolutely, we will take action against them and I would not expect any developer who fails directly to deliver on those responsibilities to go on working here in Wales,” he said.

In England, lease holders would be required to instigate legal action against a developer not fixing fire safety defects, Mr Drakeford said. He insisted that the legal changes Mr Davies was referring to were “specifically written for the building safety regime in England”.
“It is not as simple as simply picking them up and dropping them into the very different Welsh context.”

Speaking after the exchange, Mr Davies said: “The time this is taking, some six years after Grenfell, means the Labour government need to pull their finger out and pull people out of the vortex they feel they are in.”