A Reading estate agent has been fined £30,000 over “unsafe cladding”, say Reading Borough Council.
According to the council, Haslams Estate Agents had waited until completion of a sale to tell buyers that their newly-bought flat contained cladding made with aluminium composite material, similar to material found in Grenfell Tower.
The buyers had an offer accepted on the private flat in October 2017. An inspection on 3 November discovered that the building’s cladding contained ACM. Steps were immediately taken to reduce risk, such as closing the building’s car park, and Haslams were informed of the findings the same day of the inspection.
The information, however, “sat with its lettings team”, who failed to share news with the sales team. The sales team were instead made aware of the cladding on 16 November, yet the buyers were only informed of the findings half an hour after keys were collected the following day.
The buyers “subsequently made clear they would have withdrawn from the sale had they been made aware before completion”. They faced potential unknown costs, as no government plan was in place to deal with ACM cladding at the time.
The buyers consequently filed a complaint to Reading Borough Council’s Trading Standards team, who launched an investigation on their behalf.
Haslams was sentenced at Reading Magistrates Court on 24 October, after it pleaded guilty at the “earliest opportunity”.
Councillor Ellie Emberson said: “This was an important prosecution which involved a business failing to pass on critical information to a consumer, which has understandably caused them a high level of stress and anxiety.
“The fine should serve as a reminder to businesses. The Council’s Trading Standard’s team has welcomed Haslams’ response to the investigation and the improvements it has made to prevent it happening again.”
Haslams was fined £30,000 and ordered by magistrates to pay costs of £2,646, as well as a victim surcharge of £170.