A landmark legal action has been launched following a two-year delay in urgent fire safety remediation work.
The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has taken the first step in litigation against Grey GR Limited Partnership, owned by investment company, RailPen.
Grey GR, the freeholder of a fifteen-story Vista Tower block of residential flats in Stevenage, has been given 21 days to commit to remediating the tower’s fire safety defects.
If no action is taken within the next three weeks, an application will be made to the courts.
The legal action is believed to be the first of its kind to be brought by the Government’s Recovery Strategy Unit which, following the Grenfell Tower disaster, was set up to identify and pursue organisations that repeatedly fail to deal with building safety issues.
Vista Tower’s owners have been given notice to comply with their duties under the Building Safety Act 2022, following complaints that they have failed to ensure the safety of more than 100 residents by repeatedly delaying remediation work to deal with unsafe cladding.
Commenting on the legal action, Levelling Up Secretary of State, Simon Clarke said: “This legal action should act as a warning to the rest of industry’s outliers – big and small. Step up, follow your peers and make safe the buildings you own or legal action will be taken against you.”
The residents of Vista Tower claim they have been left in limbo and unable to sell, despite the need for the remediation of the unsafe cladding having been identified more than two years ago.
It is understood that Vista’s owners registered with the Building Safety Fund back in 2020 but have yet to sign the agreement, meaning that the Government cannot release any money to help pay for remediation costs.
According to the DLUHC’s records, there are at least 23 other buildings registered with the Building Safety Fund that have not undertaken urgent remediation work due to “unnecessary delays”.
The department has warned that it is now examining these cases closely and will be considering “next steps” to ensure action is taken.
The Secretary of State has advised that he is also considering an application for a Remediation Contribution Order against other entities associated with Grey GR including Railways Pension Trustee Company Limited (RailPen) and Railtrust Holdings Limited (Railtrust), requiring them to financially contribute to the remediation costs.
Adam Davis, a Director with Palmers Solicitors and Head of the Construction Law Department, said: “This legal action may well be the first but will almost certainly not be the last claim relating to unsafe cladding.
“With remediation for these projects often being high value, such claims could have a significant impact on the construction sector as building owners seek to recover some of the costs of cladding remediation.
“It is also important to ensure that all future contracts meet the latest regulations.”
For more information on the specialist legal support we are able to offer the construction sector or for help and advice on cladding remediation issues, please get in touch with us.