LONDON (AP) — The British government on Monday told property developers they must bear the cost of removing dangerous cladding that has left scores of apartment buildings at risk of fire, and thousands of residents facing steep bills to make their homes safe.
The risk posed by some kinds of aluminum composite cladding was exposed when fire engulfed London high-rise Grenfell Tower in June 2017, killing 72 people in Britain’s deadliest domestic blaze since World War II.
Investigators found that the flammable cladding helped the fire, which started in an apartment kitchen, race out of control.
Safety regulations brought in since then require similar dangerous cladding to be removed, but the work hasn’t been carried out on some apartment buildings because of wrangling over who should pay.
While high-rise buildings have been able to get government funding to remove the cladding, low-rise dwellings haven’t.
Housing and Communities Secretary Michael Gove said that by early March developers must come up with a plan to pay the estimated 4 billion-pound ($5.4 billion) cost of fixing the cladding on low-rise buildings, or face legal action and potentially a new tax to raise the money.
Gove said the government would “use legal means and ultimately, if necessary, the tax system in order to ensure that those who have deep pockets, those who are responsible for the upkeep of these buildings, pay, rather than the leaseholders, the individuals, who in the past were being asked to pay with money they didn’t have for a problem that they did not cause.”
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