First legal action launched to keep residents safe

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  • First step in legal action against leaseholder who does not solve defects in the safety of buildings
  • Vista Tower owners told to start repairs or be forced out by courts
  • Act marks next step in using new powers to ensure building safety measures

The Department for Leveling up has taken the first step in legal action against Gray GR, an organization ultimately owned by RailPen, to protect residents and ensure proper construction safety.

Gray GR Limited Partnership, the rights owner of Vista Tower, a fifteen-storey high-rise block in Stevenage, has been given 21 days to commit to rectifying the tower’s fire safety deficiencies, otherwise an application will be filed with the court.

This action follows a two-year delay for more than 100 residents living in the tower and reaffirms the government’s commitment to ensure that building owners, landlords and developers comply with their legal obligations and protect tenants in their own homes.

The owner is one of the first to face action from the newly created Recovery Strategy Unit, which was established to identify and prosecute companies that repeatedly refuse to repair buildings, working closely with other law enforcement agencies.

Leveling Secretary of State Simon Clarke said:

“The lives of more than 100 people living in Vista Tower have been put on hold for more than two years as they wait for Gray GR to restore the unsafe cladding. Enough is enough.

“This legal action should be a warning to the rest of the industry’s outliers – big and small. Get out, follow your colleagues and secure the buildings you own or legal action will be taken against you.

Sophie Bichener, leaseholder at Vista Tower said:

“We thank the government for helping us, and tenant farmers across the country – residents of Vista Tower just want to live in safe houses.

“This action is a step in the right direction for the innocent leaseholders who still desperately plead with their building owners to take responsibility.

“Now the tenant protections are in place – it should serve as a warning to those entities that are still playing games and doing everything they can to evade their legal obligations.”

Vista Tower tenants have been billed and unable to sell, despite unsafe cladding on the building being identified more than two years ago.

Although the building was registered with the Building Safety Fund in 2020, the financing agreement has yet to be signed, meaning the government cannot release any funds.

At least 23 other buildings have been registered with the Construction Safety Fund that have been unable to make progress due to unnecessary delays. The department is closely investigating these cases and is considering next steps.

The Secretary of State will also consider applying for a remediation grant against other entities affiliated with Gray GR, including Railways Pension Trustee Company Limited (RailPen) and Railtrust Holdings Limited (Railtrust), requiring them to contribute financially. contribute to the remediation costs.

Leaseholders can now request a remediation measure and are encouraged to do so if the owner of their building fails to fulfill their responsibilities. More guidelines can be found here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/making-sure-remediation-work-is-done#how-does-this-affect-me-the-leaseholder

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