The Grenfell Tower inquiry chaired by the Right Honourable Sir Martin Moore-Bick today released its long awaited Phase 1 Report into the disaster. The report is a damning indictment into the design, build, and materials of the Tower as well as citing "systematic failings" in how the emergency services dealt with the tragedy.
Of particular note to building owners will be the comments made in relation to combustible cladding which has brought this issue firmly back into the spotlight. Sir Moore-Bick commented that he found the rapid spread of the fire up the building "profoundly shocking", and that the use of combustible cladding was the "principal reason" why the fire spread so quickly to the whole of the building.
As we have seen from a variety of recent cases, and most recently The Green Quarter case, the cost of replacing combustible cladding has often been deemed a recoverable expense under service charge provisions within some leases. The findings of Sir Moore-Bick in this regard will emphasise the need for building owners to consider leases carefully and deal quickly with any combustible cladding that may be on their building.
Sir Moore-Bick has said that the replacement of cladding is "essential that it be done as quickly as possible" and that "the programme of remedial work should be pursued as vigorously as possible". The report also criticised the time in which it had taken for outstanding remedial works to be undertaken with the report asserting that there had been a "slow rate of progress in carrying out the [remedial] works".
This reiterated the comments made in the House of Commons Communities and Local Government Select Committee in July of this year which recommended that due to the slow pace of remedial works, the Government should set a deadline by which time all buildings with any form of dangerous cladding should be fully remediated. As of 30 September 2019, we understand that there were 321 high rise blocks which had not yet replaced their combustible cladding.
Other recommendations which will be of note to those involved in the ownership and management of property, are made particularly in relation to fire safety with the key recommendations being:
A law requiring owners and managers of high rise residential buildings to provide their local fire and rescue service with information...