Neighbours locked in cladding nightmare face bills of up to £40k EACH

The neighbours who are locked in a cladding nightmare: Sold the dream of home ownership, 1,346 leaseholders in one cluster of flats face bills of up to £40k EACH

  • Neighbours living in a development in Manchester face bills of up to £40k each
  • In the wake of Grenfell disaster, dangerous cladding was found on five blocks 
  • The young professionals are stuck in a fire traps and cannot sell their homes 
  • Now, The Daily Mail is campaigning to end the nationwide cladding scandal

The sales brochure called it ‘an exceptional development for modern living.’

The Green Quarter, a seven-block development in central Manchester, was once a pin-up for 21st-century regeneration.

A hub of bars and restaurants just north of Manchester Victoria station, it was perfect for young professionals.

But the Green Quarter is now an inescapable urban nightmare, encapsulating Britain’s shameful building safety scandal.

Lives on hold: From left, standing: Damian Taylor and Rebecca Rowlands; John Kerr; Evad Ould-Okojie; Jamie Pratt; Nicky Lewis and Danielle Williamson; Ben Griffiths and Brad Hester; Jessica Pigg; Kieran Kelly and Millie Cordingley. Kneeling: Dasvini Mistry; Stephen Squires; Rebekah Turner and Charlotte Jones

In the aftermath of the Grenfell disaster, which killed 72 people in June 2017, all seven buildings there have been deemed unsafe.

Dangerous cladding has been found on five blocks. Two more have missing fire breaks. The total bill to fix it could hit £40million.

Many of the development’s 1,346 leaseholders face bills of up to £40,000 each. None can sell or remortgage their homes.

The Daily Mail is campaigning to end the scandal, which nationwide has left hundreds of thousands stuck in fire traps facing bills of up to £115,000 to pay for repairs.

Just 202 out of an estimated 11,760 unsafe buildings have been fixed since Grenfell. Experts believe it will take another ten years to complete work at the current rate.

Ministers have set aside £1.6billion to fix the problem, but MPs expect the total cost to be closer to £15billion.

Today, Green Quarter residents demand the Government acts now to end their misery.

The teacher

Danielle Williamson thought she had found her perfect first home in 2009, paying £135,000 for the brand-new flat, completed the year before.

Danielle Williamson, 36, desperately wants a bigger home with her boyfriend, Nicky Lewis, 34, an NHS worker

But one month after Grenfell, the 122 leaseholders at Vallea Court were told that the building had dangerous cladding and they would have to pay about £21,000 each to replace it.

Residents launched a campaign and after 20 months of relentless pressure freeholder Pemberstone said the cladding bill and costs of hiring fire wardens to patrol the building 24 hours a day would be paid by a private consortium.

Work began in July 2019 and was completed in May last year. But residents were then told their homes still needed to pass a test known as EWS1 before they could sell or remortgage.

A shortage of qualified engineers, means that could take up to ten years. And the test looks for other fire safety defects, meaning even more work could be required.

Miss Williamson, now 36, desperately wants a bigger home with her boyfriend, Nicky Lewis, 34, an NHS worker. ‘We feel physically and mentally trapped,’ she says.

‘We’ve outgrown this place. There is no way I’d want to have a child in a two-bedroom flat.’

The HR manager

John Kerr, 32, wants to move back to his native Northern Ireland to be closer to his family

John Kerr, 32, is also trapped at Vallea Court. He can’t even rent out his flat because he is now stuck with his lender, which doesn’t offer buy-to-let mortgages. 

Mr Kerr, who bought his flat for £140,000 in 2012, wants to move back to his native Northern Ireland to be closer to his family and has considered finding a cash buyer.

But he is ‘unwilling to purge all the equity’ he has built up by accepting a huge discount.

‘I’m starting to get those pangs to move home, particularly as my parents are getting a bit older,’ he says. ‘It’s scary to think I can’t.’

The charity worker

Rebekah Turner says she lived in ‘constant fear’ after Grenfell-style cladding was found on her building just weeks after the blaze in west London. 

Rebekah Turner, 34, (left) lives with her partner Charlotte Jones and fears potential costs of fixing other defects

She waited almost three years for the material to be replaced, but now more tests are needed.

Miss Turner, 34, lives in Cypress Place, a 220-flat building completed four years after Vallea Court, with her partner Charlotte Jones. She bought the one-bedroom flat, for £135,000 in 2015.

She fears potential costs of fixing other defects may eclipse the £20,000 they faced paying to replace their cladding.

A Government fund covers only the replacement of dangerous cladding, so if other problems are found then leaseholders have to pay for repairs themselves.

‘There has been a slow realisation that the cladding is almost the cheapest part,’ she says.

‘My partner and I are due to get married this year and want to move into a bigger place. Our life plans are on hold.’

The solicitor

Jessica Pigg, 29, says she would lose her job as a solicitor if she is made bankrupt and faces a bill of at least £30,000 to fix fire safety defects discovered last year

Jessica Pigg, 29, says she would lose her job as a solicitor if she is made bankrupt. 

She bought her flat at Britton House for £201,000 in September 2017, three months after Grenfell, but surveys gave the building a clean bill of health. 

Now she faces a bill of at least £30,000 to fix fire safety defects discovered last year.

The 165-flat building, completed in 2008, is the only block in the Green Quarter that requires a 24-hour fire patrol after it was found to have six types of unsafe cladding. 

Missing fire breaks could create a chimney effect, with flames tearing up a building via voids in exterior walls. 

Flat owners were told in September that they would have to pay £7,500 a month between them for a fire warden to patrol the building 24 hours a day. 

After they claimed he had gone awol, the number of wardens was increased to three and individual bills rose from £60 to £180 per month.

The service charge could increase from £150 to £2,700 a month if the freehold owners Adriatic Land use it to collect payments for fixing the cladding and fire breaks.

She says: ‘How can the Government let this happen? I didn’t know it had these defects when I bought it.’

The facilities manager

Stephen Squires, 43, faces a bill of £30,000 to fix dangerous cladding and missing fire breaks in his building

Stephen Squires, 43, who also lives in Britton House, faces a bill of £30,000 to fix dangerous cladding and missing fire breaks in his building and is paying £180 a month for the fire patrol. 

He says: ‘It’s not a suitable method for mitigating the risk of fire.

‘It wouldn’t matter if ten people did it. We’re worried about reporting any more issues in case the bills go up. 

‘The financial burden is terrifying.’

The young couple

Evad Ould-Okojie, 30, and Luke Hatfield, 35, had an offer accepted on a three-bedroom house, their ‘forever home’, in Marple, Greater Manchester, for £220,000 in 2019. 

Evad Ould-Okojie, 30, who works in an art gallery, had an offer accepted on a three-bedroom housebut the deal collapsed when their buyer’s lender asked for a certificate to prove the property was safe

But the deal collapsed when their buyer’s lender asked for a certificate to prove the property was safe. 

It took a year to carry out the tests, which showed their building didn’t have enough fire breaks. 

Miss Ould-Okojie bought the flat in Melia Court for £167,000 in February 2017. 

She says that because it is brick, she thought there wouldn’t be fire safety issues.

Now the couple don’t know how long it will take to fix and or how much it will cost. 

Miss Ould-Okojie, who works in an art gallery, says: ‘We worry over whether we will be made bankrupt from doing something we thought was a really good idea a few years ago.’

The advertising executive

Kieran Kelly, 30, faces a bill of at least £20,000 and says the the cladding has torpedoed their dream of a home

Kieran Kelly, 30, moved into his £156,000 flat in 2016. 

Last November, a survey revealed the 165 flats at Barton Place had combustible cladding, wooden balconies and missing fire breaks. 

The fire engineer who completed the test said the building should never have been signed off as safe.

Residents have no idea how long it will take to fix but do know they are liable to pick up the tab. Mr Kelly faces a bill of at least £20,000.

He and girlfriend Millie Cordingley, 31, were due to marry this year and buy a house. 

Now the pandemic has put paid to a wedding and the cladding has torpedoed their dream of a home. ‘We’ve had to totally change our plans,’ Mr Kelly says.

The consultant

Dasvini Mistry, 39, says she will be saddled with lifelong debt if she is forced to pay £20,000 to fix safety defects at her flat

Dasvini Mistry, 39, says she will be saddled with lifelong debt if she is forced to pay £20,000 to fix safety defects at her flat. 

She bought her two-bedroom apartment in Barton Place for £182,000 in 2016.

She says: ‘During the pandemic, we’re all spending 24 hours a day at home and it’s really scary to know that this apartment is basically a tinderbox.

‘When you buy a leasehold you don’t expect to be paying for historical remediation costs or the safety of the building. 

‘That’s why you pay for a survey before you buy it. Now my flat is unsellable.’

The financial worker

Jamie Pratt, 39, wants to return home to New Zealand with his wife, but faces paying at least £20,000 to fix defects

Jamie Pratt, 39, bought his flat in Barton Place for £180,000 in 2015. 

He now wants to return home to New Zealand with his wife, but faces paying at least £20,000 to fix defects.

Mr Pratt accuses politicians of kicking the can down the road. 

‘What they don’t get is that people are getting billed for this right now and going bankrupt. 

‘It’s not a theoretical thing that is happening in the future that needs to be debated. 

‘If I get sent a bill tomorrow, I’ll have to make arrangements to pay or I’ll get taken to court and lose.’

The accountant

Damian Taylor, 26, was hit with a bill of £40,000 to fix cladding and missing fire breaks just 12 months after he bought his flat

Damian Taylor, 26, was hit with a bill of £40,000 to fix cladding and missing fire breaks just 12 months after he bought his flat in Jefferson Place, a 309-apartment building, for £170,000. 

Five fire safety defects were found last year, but only two of those are likely to be covered by the Government fund. His insurance bill has already shot up by 150 per cent.

Mr Taylor, whose girlfriend Rebecca Rowlands, 22, recently moved into the one-bed flat, says: ‘It puts your whole life on hold.

‘All my savings went into the deposit and I had built up a bit more, earmarked for moving out and starting a family in 18 months’ time. But these bills would wipe that out.

‘I felt proud of getting on the property ladder at 24, but it’s all been downhill since then.’

The friends

Brad Hester, 28, faces a £30,000 bill to repair defects

Brad Hester, pictured, and Ben Griffiths bought their flat in Britton House in 2016 for about £200,000. 

Now they are paying for a fire patrol and face hikes to their service charge, as well as a £30,000 bill to repair defects.

Mr Griffiths, 28, a sales engineer, also saw his dreams of buying a new place with his fiancee collapse because the flat is unsellable.

He says: ‘We trusted in the laws of this country to protect us. We never expected that if we were to invest £200,000 into a property that within two years it would be valued as worthless.’

Last night a Government spokesman said: ‘Building owners should make all buildings safe without passing on costs to leaseholders where possible. We are considering options to fund future remediation and we will set out further details in due course.’

Email [email protected] if this scandal has affected you 

Residents can’t speak out because of £1bn fund gag

Residents in dangerous buildings are being gagged by a £1billion Government fund designed to fix unsafe blocks.

The Ministry of Housing has inserted a contract clause which bans leaseholders making public comments about safety failings. Thousands of families who are trapped in flats they cannot sell because of fire risks could lose the chance of obtain funding by speaking out.

The contract, which applicants must sign to get aid, bans ‘any communication’ with journalists about repairs even if it is in the public interest. They cannot speak publicly ‘without the prior written approval’ of Government press officers.

The Government has set aside two funds worth a total of £1.6billion to replace dangerous cladding, similar to that found on Grenfell Tower. MPs and campaigners believe the true cost will be £15billion.

Without the aid, leaseholders would have to pay full repair bills, which can reach up to £115,000. The clause in the contract could leave them in the position of being able to speak about faulty balconies, but not dangerous cladding.

Former Tory minister Sir Peter Bottomley said the clause was ‘inexcusable and incomprehensible’. A ministry spokesman said: ‘The terms set out are standard in commercial agreements. Applicants are asked to work with the department on public communications relating to the project.’  

Source: Read Full Article