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Victory for leaseholders: High Court cladding update

View profile for Brianna Garley
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Victory for leaseholders: High Court cladding update

In what is sure to be welcome news for leaseholders, the High Court has handed down a landmark Judgment in respect of the ongoing cladding saga.

Many leaseholders and freeholders have faced crippling bills to replace dangerous cladding, installed through no fault of their own. Today, the High Court has set a binding precedent for all lower Courts to follow with this being the first case whereby the contractor has had to pay for the replacement cladding instead of the property owners.

This case has been of particular interest to many of us in the industry. The case questioned whether or not the specification of combustible EW1 rendered cladding breached fire safety standards.

Housing Association, Hyde Group, through one of its subsidiaries, Martlet, brought proceedings against contractor Mulalley & Co, in respect of remediation costs that had been incurred replacing dangerous cladding originally installed by Mulalley on four high-rise residential towers in Gosport. Gosport Towers were built in the early 1960’s.

Mulalley completed works to the towers in 2007 and 2008, installing a cladding system called the StoTherm Classic. Mulalley denied liability in full. It admitted that there were some defects in the installation of the cladding but denied that this justified the complete replacement of the cladding, nor the “waking watch” that was being used as a temporary measure prior to the cladding’s removal. For clarity, a waking watch is a fire safety system whereby trained staff continually patrol the floors and the exterior perimeter of a building to maintain the safety of its occupants from fire.

High Court judge HHJ Stephen Davies held that Martlet had succeeded on both its primary and alternative cases and awarded substantial damages to Martlet for the remedial works it had undertaken to address the defects in the buildings cladding systems.

HHJ Davies also awarded Martlet damages for the costs of the waking watch that had been implemented.

In considering the issue of causation, HHJ Davies held that “the change in the fire safety regulatory regime and the impact of Grenfell, was not conduct amounting to fault by some third party or conduct which should negative the Defendant’s responsibility for the consequences of its earlier fault”.

Global law firm, Norton Rose Fulbright, acted for Martlet in this matter. In their press release they claimed that it was the first High Court judgment on a claim concerning fire safety defects since the Grenfell Tower disaster in 2017.

The Judgment is welcome news for leaseholders and Housing Associations who are shouldering the costs of remediating unsafe buildings.

Andrew Witt, Partner and Head of our Litigation department commented “This Judgment has provided significant and helpful guidance as to how the Courts will approach claims for defective cladding. It is news that will be welcomed by many”.

If leaseholders, or freeholders, have any issues with the safety of their cladding and/or have received a large bill for remediation work, they should seek legal advice.