GRENFELL FAILINGS – TENANTS’ POINTS TO NOTE
It is now common knowledge that the principal cause of the Grenfell Tower’s rapid fire spread was defective cladding enveloping the building which was fitted in breach of building regulations. Whilst the Grenfell Inquiry sifts through the evidence and points the finger at the various professionals who comprehensively failed those residents who suffered the consequences of their errors and omissions and landlords nationwide hasten to attend to their high-rise structures, we summarise the possible answers to the following questions: -
- Who pays to remedy defective cladding?
- Who might you look to for compensation?
- How long do you have to sue?
The Landlord can look in the first instance to the tenants, subject to the terms of their lease, for a contribution to the cost of removal and installation of cladding to remedy a defect. Most standard lease terms will enable recovery under the service charge of the cost, from the tenants. There will be exceptions where a particular clause spells out the exception to this rule such as if the defect is inherent from the point of construction for instance. It is important that tenants ensure their lease is carefully scrutinised by a solicitor specialised in property law, to ensure there is no potential for challenging service charge demands in such circumstances.
The Landlord has the additional option of looking to certain funds set up to cover cladding issues. These funds only operate to cover residential premises and high rise buildings exceeding a certain level. There are deadlines for application to be made for funding. The Landlord will be expected to demonstrate that they have made sufficient effort to recover the cost of remedial works from all other potential parties liable to cover these costs such as tenants, professionals and insurers.
Tenants should check their building warranty policy. Typically for new build properties, these policies will cover the tenant for a period of around 10 years. Tenants should refer large service charge demands in connection with cladding issues to the building warranty provider in the first instance.
Who to sue:
Under the Defective Premises Act 1972, any professional engaged to advise and assist in the construction of a dwelling, is potentially liable for negligent commission of their duties and obligations, and they owe a duty of care to anyone acquiring a legal title in the premises and who was entitled to rely upon those persons carrying out their duties to a proper workmanlike standard. This could mean that potentially, a tenant may look to any of the experts involved in the construction of their property, for a claim in damages, including architects, surveyors, contractors, developers, managing agents or building inspector.
How long do you have?
If you are minded to sue, it is important to keep an eye on the clock as there are statutory limitations at play – 6 years from the act of negligence or 3 years from date of knowledge of it whichever is the later.