First legal steps taken to protect local residents

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  • First legal action against landowners for failing to fix building safety issues
  • The Vista Tower owners have been ordered to begin rehabilitation work or forced to do so by the courts
  • The law marks the next step in using new powers to ensure building security measures

The Department for Leveling up has taken the first step in legal action against Gray GR, an organization ultimately owned by RailPen, protecting local residents and ensuring proper building security.

Gray GR Limited Partnership, the owner of the Vista Tower, a fifteen-story skyscraper in Stevenage, has been given 21 days to commit to fixing the tower’s fire safety deficiencies, failing which it will face a claim in the courts.

This measure follows two years of delays for more than 100 residents living in the tower and reaffirms the Government’s commitment to ensuring building owners, landlords and developers meet their legal obligations and protect tenants in their own homes.

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

Leveling Up Secretary of State Simon Clarke said:

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

“This lawsuit should serve as a warning to outliers in the rest of the industry – big and small. Get in, 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 their help and tenants across the country – Vista Tower residents just want to live in safe houses.

“This action is a step in the right direction for the innocent tenants who are still desperately asking their building owners to take responsibility.

“Now tenant protection is in place – it should serve as a warning to those businesses that are still playing games and doing whatever it takes to evade their legal obligations.”

Vista Tower tenants have been handed bills they couldn’t sell despite unsafe paneling on the building being discovered more than two years ago.

While 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 money.

At least 23 other buildings registered with the Building Safety Fund could not be completed due to unnecessary delays. The department is reviewing these cases closely and considering next steps.

The Foreign Secretary will also consider applying for a recovery contribution order against other Gray GR affiliated companies, including Railways Pension Trustee Company Limited (RailPen) and Railtrust Holdings Limited (Railtrust), requiring them to contribute financially to the recovery costs .

Tenants can now request and are encouraged to request remedial action if their building owner fails to meet their responsibilities. Further guidance 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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