“ Developers: Time is running out” – Michael Gove
A major housing developer at the heart of a government campaign to fix unsafe buildings has said it has still not received the final version of a crucial contract that they need to sign in the next five days or risk being “banned” from operating in the market, PoliticsHome has learned.
In January, house-building companies were given six weeks to sign a legally binding agreement that will commit them to funding repairs to unsafe buildings in England that they have developed or refurbished over the last 30 years.
Earlier this week housing secretary Michael Gove put pressure on companies to return the crucial contract in order to avoid the ban. “One week to sign the building safety contract to fix unsafe buildings you are responsible for or you will be banned from operating in the housing market,” he tweeted.
The legal commitment solidifies a pledge made last year by 49 developers to remediate critical safety works.
When Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities DLUHC launched the contract on January 30, they said that legislation planned for this Spring will create a Responsible Actors Scheme, which will allow ministers to block developers who have not signed the contract or do not comply with it, and prevent them from operating as usual in the housing market.
However, Persimmon featured on the government’s press release to publicly back the legally-binding contract when it was launched on 30 January, and said they were the “first” to signal their intention to sign, say they have still not received the final paperwork from government.
“We still intend to sign as we signalled in January. We will do so as soon as we receive the final contract to sign,” a spokesperson for Persimmon told PoliticsHome.
“The department has not sent that to us yet.”
When the contract was launched at the end of January, Dean Finch, the group chief executive at Persimmon said in the government’s press release that the “terms of the contract are entirely consistent with our existent commitment to protect leaseholders” and “we are pleased to confirm our intention to sign the final document.”
Another major housing developer, Lovell, who signed last year’s pledge, said that they have told the department they will sign the contract, but are also still waiting for a final version to be issued.
“The final-form legal contract was issued in January 2023 and Lovell Partnerships Limited has confirmed in writing to DLUHC its intention to sign and execute the contract on or before the stipulated date of 13 March 2023,” a spokesperson for Lovell Partnerships said.
“We await a final version of the contract from the Department of Levelling Up Housing and Communities to enable signing.”
While some firms are believed to have received the final paperwork, PoliticsHome understands that work is still ongoing within DLUHC to add a number of annexes to contracts relating to specific buildings from particular firms, and officials hope this will be sorted in the coming days before the final deadline.
When the contract was first announced, Gove said “there will be nowhere to hide for those who fail to step up to their responsibilities – I will not hesitate to act and they will face significant consequences”.
A spokesperson at the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities said: “Developers who signed the pledge last year committed to remediate buildings they developed. The contract binds them to that commitment.
“All developers received the final text of the contract on 30 January and several have since confirmed they will sign.
“We expect all developers to do so without delay. Those that fail to do the right thing will be banned from the housing market.”