image captionResidents of some blocks deemed to be unsafe have been forced to leave
Campaigners say “a generation of homeowners” face financial ruin, after MPs rejected attempts to shield leaseholders from fire safety costs.
Thousands were left feeling unsafe and facing huge bills after cladding applied to many homes was found to have fuelled the 2017 Grenfell fire.
What is cladding and how does it affect flat owners?
Cladding is the process of adding a new layer of material to the outside of a building.
It may be installed to increase insulation or weather protection, or to improve the building’s appearance.
But some cladding has been found to be combustible, prompting a building safety crisis affecting thousands.
image captionBuilders remove cladding from a block in Greater Manchester
Freeholders, who own the land the building sits on, are supposed to absorb the cost of making buildings safe where possible.
But in practice this is often passed on to their leaseholders. Most flat owners come under this category.
These leaseholders have had to pay for extra fire safety measures until cladding or insulation is stripped off.
For many people, the cost can run into tens of thousands of pounds, the End our Cladding Scandal group said.
It can also be difficult for them to sell their property – even if the cladding is classed as low risk – as many lenders have refused to offer mortgages on them.
How is it connected to the Grenfell fire tragedy?
In June 2017, a fire broke out in the Grenfell Tower block in west London, killing 72 people.
The first phase of an inquiry said cladding installed during refurbishment helped the fire spread because it was made from combustible material.
image captionGrenfell fire protesters have campaigned for more clarity over the cladding used on the tower block
Safety inspections on other high-rise blocks revealed not just dangerous cladding, but other fire safety faults including defective insulation, flammable balconies and missing fire breaks.
How many people do cladding issues affect?
There isn’t a single number on this.
The government identified 462 high-rise residential buildings with dangerous cladding. It has been fully removed from more than 200 of these, with removal work under way on most of the others.
But these figures only cover buildings that are over 18m tall and have the type of cladding used on Grenfell Tower.
The government does not supply regular statistics on other types of building.
About half a million people are living in a building with some form of unsafe cladding, the Association of Residential Managing Agents says.
What money has the government promised?
In February, the government set aside £3.5bn to replace unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in residential buildings 18m (six storeys) or higher in England.
Those in lower-rise buildings, it was announced, would be able to access a loan to help pay for cladding removal, which they will pay a maximum of £50 a month towards.
The government says this is based on the level of risk. It says buildings between 18 and 30 metres high are four times as likely to have a fire with “fatalities or serious casualties” than apartment buildings in general.
The money is on top of £1.6bn that was announced for the removal of unsafe cladding last year.
The government will also levy a tax on housing developers to help pay for the costs, which it says will raise £2bn over the next 10 years.
What are the issues with the scheme?
Some have welcomed the extra financial support, but campaigners say it doesn’t go far enough.
“Many people living in buildings under 18m will still have to bear the cost – for many above £30,000 – saddled with debt around their necks for 30 years,” the End our Cladding Scandal group said.
image captionResidents of an estate in Camden, north London, were asked to evacuate in 2017 due to cladding concerns
Campaigners say thousands of leaseholders also face large bills to pay for other safety measures not covered by the scheme. This includes fire breaks, new balconies, safer doors and sprinkler systems.
Peers – who sit in the House of Lords – tried to stop the owners of blocks of flats passing fire safety costs on to leaseholders. However, on 29 April, the government rejected these proposals.
Following the vote, the End our Cladding Scandal group said the government had “fought hard” against changes that would have saved leaseholders from “widespread bankruptcy and financial ruin”.
The government said that further delays would have cost lives.