First legal action for fire saftey remediation delays
1 January 2023
This article was first published on the Batchelor’s Solicitors website prior to its merger with Birketts.
A landmark legal action has been launched against the freeholder of a high-rise residential tower block, after failing for two years to carry out 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 the 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.
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The content of this article is for general information only. It is not, and should not be taken as, legal advice. If you require any further information in relation to this article please contact the author in the first instance. Law covered as at January 2023.