The High Court ruled on the 14th July that Mulalley & Co has to pay damages for the cost of removing cladding which was deemed unsafe. The cladding was fitted to four residential tower blocks in Gosport, Hampshire.
Mulalley refurbished the tower blocks between 2006 and 2008 using an expanded polystyrene (EPS) external wall insulation (EWI) cladding system. However, the 2017 Grenfell fire, in which 72 people died, triggered a discovery of a building safety crisis which highlighted that the widespread use of such systems is a significant concern. Thus, the new owners of the towers, Martlet Homes Ltd (part of the Hyde Group), successfully sought £8m in damages from Mulalley.
Andy Hulme, Chief Executive of housing association Hyde Group, pointed out that the case has “massive implications for the market”. Mr Hulme suggested that the judgment should help to clarify who should pay to have flammable cladding removed when disputes arise between leaseholders and the buildings’ owners. Furthermore, Mary-Anne Bowring, a fireplace security skilled and group managing director at Ringley Group, defined the ruling as “a landmark that gives hope to millions of residents living in unsafe buildings by opening the potential for legal action against other construction contractors who installed unsafe cladding”.
However, the overall cost of fixing unsafe buildings throughout England is predicted to exceed £10bn. Currently, this is mainly being met by taxpayers and builders by way of a levy. Mary-Ann Bowring went on to say that “it is not enough to simply expect developers and housing associations to launch further legal action off the back of today’s judgment in order to recover the money spent on fixing unsafe buildings. It is time for the government to step up and use its immense sources to improve the fire safety of tall buildings, recuperating the costs for those responsible for dodgy construction work afterwards.”
Ultimately, while there is more that could be done, the judgment provides a welcomed indication of what the court’s approach will be for other UK building owners who must contend with similar cladding issues.
- Martlet Homes Ltd v Mulalley & Co Ltd  EWHC 1813 (TCC) :https://www.bailii.org/ew/cases/EWHC/TCC/2022/1813.pdf
- Landmark ruling on cladding – Reading solicitors, corporate, property and family advice | Field Seymour Parkes (fsp-law.com)
- Court ruling finds contractor liable for £8 million cost of removing unsafe cladding (ifsecglobal.com)
- Landmark English courtroom ruling finds contractor answerable for value of eradicating unsafe cladding (newsncr.com)
- Judge finds for client in landmark cladding case (theconstructionindex.co.uk)
Author: Joy Elson