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Government initiates first legal action designed to keep residents safe

25 October 2022

THE DEPARTMENT for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities has taken the first steps in law against the Grey GR Limited Partnership, an organisation ultimately owned by the Railways Pension Trustee Company Limited (RailPen), in a determined bid to protect residents and ensure “proper” building safety.

Grey GR Limited Partnership – the freeholder of Vista Tower, a 15-storey tower block located in Stevenage – has been given a time period of 21 days to commit to remediating the tower’s fire safety defects or an application will be made to the courts. This action follows on from two years of delays for more than 100 residents living in the development and reaffirms the Government’s commitment to making sure building owners, landlords and developers meet their legal obligations and protect tenants in their own homes.

The freeholder is one of the first to face legal action initiated by the newly created Recovery Strategy Unit, itself established to identify and pursue firms who repeatedly refuse to fix buildings. The Recovery Strategy Unit is working closely with other enforcement authorities.

Lives ‘on hold’

Simon Clarke, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, commented: “The lives of over 100 people living in Vista Tower have been put on hold for over two years while they’ve waited for Grey GR to remediate unsafe cladding. Enough is enough.”

Clarke added: “This legal action should act as a warning to the rest of industry’s outliers, both big and small. Step up, follow your peers and make safe the buildings you own or legal action will be taken against you.”

Sophie Bichener, a leaseholder in Vista Tower, stated: “We thank the Government for helping ourselves and leaseholders across the country. Vista Tower’s residents simply want to live in safe and secure homes. This action is a step in the right direction for the innocent leaseholders still desperately pleading with their building owners to take responsibility.”

Bichener concluded: “Now that the leaseholder protections are in force, it should serve as a warning to those entities still playing games and doing all they can to dodge their legal obligations.”

Unable to sell

Leaseholders in Vista Tower have been handed bills. They’ve also been unable to sell their properties, despite unsafe cladding being identified on the building over two years ago.”

While the building was registered with the Building Safety Fund in 2020, the funding agreement is yet to be signed, meaning that the Government cannot release any money.

There are at least 23 other buildings registered with the Building Safety Fund that have been unable to progress with remediation works due to unnecessary delays. The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities is examining these cases closely and considering next steps.

The Secretary of State will also consider issuing an application for a Remediation Contribution Order against other entities associated with Grey GR including RailPen and Railtrust Holdings Limited (Railtrust), requiring them to financially contribute towards the remediation costs.

Leaseholders are now able to apply for a Remediation Contribution Order and are encouraged to do so if the owner of their building is failing in their responsibilities.