In this article Kerry Leigh Upton discusses what types of cladding were associated with the Grenfell tragedy and what the ongoing repercussions of this will be for Leaseholders when it comes to the cost of cladding replacement
What are the different types of cladding?
The different types of cladding that are most commonly used are Stone Cladding, Wood and Timber Cladding, Brick Cladding, Tile Cladding, Metal Cladding, Vinyl Cladding, Concrete Cladding and Board Cladding.
The type of cladding used will depend on the purchaser’s specific requirements as to the look, cost and durability of the building. For example, Vinyl Cladding is the cheapest type of cladding available and this may appeal to the developer if they are on a budget.
What cladding was used on the Grenfell Tower?
The cladding used on the Grenfell Tower was Metal Cladding. This is usually used in Commercial Buildings and Factories. It is one of the most durable claddings available in the market. This type of cladding has changed the way buildings look and gives them a hi-tech edge.
Aluminium Composite Panels (ACP) are light weight and are widely used today. They can also be applied on an existing building surface and impart a new look to the exteriors.
ACP cladding and fire risk
Not all types of ACP Cladding are inherently dangerous, but the specifications of individual panels can vary.
Composite panels were developed as a means of providing a cheap, lightweight, weather tight, insulated building envelope which could then be rapidly erected over the interior structure.
Composite panels generally consist of internal and external metal facing sheets, bonded to a core of various alternative insulation materials. The facings are typically aluminium or steel, with coating for weather-resistance externally and decoration and hygiene internally.
How panels spread fire
Polystyrene (EPS) is the most common form of insulation core for composite panels used in the UK.
EPS will initially soften and shrink away from a small flame but will then melt and burn. The voids created by melting admit oxygen, which intensifies the fire. Molten flaming droplets can spread the fire, therefore all material between the metal facings is likely to be consumed leading to loss of structural stability.
EPS was recognised as the worst of the plastic foams in fire conditions.
What legal rights do I have if I believe the cladding material on my building may be unsafe?
The Government announced in 2018 it would meet the reasonable cost of the removal and replacement of unsafe cladding by councils and housing associations, estimated to be at £400 million.
The Government stated that in the private sector they believe the ‘morally right’ thing for Landlords to do is not to pass the cost of works onto their tenants. But at the moment there is no fixed legal position on this and it seems many private landlords are trying to pass on the costs of these works to the tenants via the service charges. Either as maintenance costs of the cost of ensuring the buildings fire safety.
NHBC have recently confirmed that claims had been accepted on a number of developments following an investigation. NHBC provide new home warranty cover against construction defects but the possibility of costs being recovered from them will be very much on a case by case basis.
Legislation is in place to ban the most combustible forms of cladding but this is not retrospective. There is a legal responsibility on your landlord to make sure your building is fire safe but not necessarily to pay for repairs. If you are affected by this issue you need to see a leasehold specialist with a copy of your Lease and any correspondence you have had from your landlord regarding the cladding and each case will need to be reviewed on an individual basis.
The Leasehold Advisory Service have also recently published a variety of free resources to assist leaseholders worried about cladding issues and these can be found here: https://www.lease-advice.org
Should you require any further information regarding this article or the services provided by Lawcomm Solicitors, please do not hesitate to contact Bill Dhariwal (E: firstname.lastname@example.org) or Kerry Leigh Upton (E: email@example.com).