U.K. Asks, Who Pays to Prevent Another Grenfell Tragedy?

Some Citiscape residents have said the cost of replacing the cladding is so high that they might be unable to afford to stay in their homes. Until the work is done, fire marshals are patrolling the building, and the residents expect to be billed for that cost, too.

Members of the Conservative government have suggested that landlords should pay for the work on private buildings, while some Labour members of Parliament have said that the government should step in.

Govt must intervene now to protect residents in Croydon tower block with Grenfell Tower-style flammable cladding

— Steve Reed (@SteveReedMP) Jan. 17, 2018

The government has pledged support for the replacement effort, but has not offered specifics, or taken a formal stance on how the costs should be shared.

U.K. Asks, Who Pays to Prevent Another Grenfell Tragedy?
U.K. Asks, Who Pays to Prevent Another Grenfell Tragedy?

“Given the pressing need to undertake these essential safety works and the potential costs to leaseholders, we and others in the property industry welcome any clarity the government can provide on what support will be made available,” FirstPort Property Services, which manages Citiscape, said in a statement on Thursday.

The Grenfell fire, last June 14, came to be seen as a national tragedy that raised hard questions about attitudes that put profit over safety, the extent of deregulation, and ethnic and class divides in London. A memorial service for the dead was held at St. Paul’s Cathedral, and was attended by Prime Minister Theresa May and members of the royal family.

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FirstPort and Proxima GR Properties, which owns the Citiscape building, contend that the long-term leases signed by the residents make clear that the occupants are responsible for needed repairs.

FirstPort has asked a court to rule on responsibility for the cost, and a hearing has been set for Feb. 6, which would provide a legal answer to the dispute. But Alex Nekrassov, a spokesman for Proxima, conceded in an interview that the court may not offer an ethical or practical resolution.

“This cladding was up to the standard required by government,” he said. “For the government to say we want people to take it away, that’s fair enough to say, but they’re the ones who changed the standard.”

The Association of Residential Managing Agents, a trade group, said on Thursday that many other buildings had lease terms demanding that residents shoulder the cost of replacing cladding. The government should offer them interest-free loans, the group said.

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