Leaseholders respond to Gove cladding announcement: ‘At this pace, our building won’t be safe for years’

The Government is stepping up its efforts to tackle the cladding crisis. However, after four years of confusion, policy changes and inaction, Londoners trapped in unsafe homes are now wary of property developers and companies that make dangerous insulation products. Gove warned that those who refuse to pay for repairs could face tax hikes, expulsion from the Help to Buy program, and even legal action. Tim Eaton, 37, said that the building would not be safe for many years if it continues at this pace. In September 2020, the sale failed. Tim claims the buyer couldn’t get a mortgage because the building didn’t have an EWS1 form. This is a certificate that confirms the building’s fire safety credentials. Another nine months was required to apply for the fund. Tim said that the five-month wait for the freeholder to meet with the developer has been frustrating. “Our building won’t become safe for many years if we continue to move at this pace,” said Tim. “Astonishingly, Tim and his neighbors complain that they haven’t been informed exactly what is wrong with their building other than the firebreaks. Its housing association manages it. They have done surveys, but they won’t reveal their results because of legal privilege. They also don’t know how much he might be expected pay for remediation or for the waking watch patrols that were there from the autumn 2020 to last March to keep an eye out for fires. Tim stated that the system as it stands is not working. “This is just hot air unless Michael Gove fixes it.” Geeta Nanda (chief executive of Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing Association, which manages Tim’s development in Dalston), agreed that leaseholders shouldn’t have to pay for safety work to their homes. She stated that “those responsible for the building safety crisis must be those who pay for the repair of affected buildings.” The freeholder continues to keep residents informed about progress. “People have committed suicide or lost their homes due to this.” Baz Jafar, 32, who is a project manager at a bank, bought his one-bedroom apartment in Upper Edmonton in 2015 for?225,000. The building is now managed by a resident management company, of which he is a member. It ordered a 2020 fire safety inspection that revealed that the smartly clad balconies of the 96 flats were a fire hazard. Baz stated that at first, “OK, this building is five years old with a warranty, it won’t be that big of a problem””. Unfortunately, their warranty provider stated that the construction had met all building standards that were in effect when the block was built. The developer and their freeholder declined to help. It is estimated that the work would cost?1.5m or about?15,000 per household. In 2020, the residents applied for assistance from the Building Safety Fund. After waiting for around a year for a reply, they were denied in April 2021 because of their balcony problem. However, the fund does not cover balconies. But after arguing that their balconies are set in the building, rather than sticking out, they were told they could apply for support. They have submitted a full application and are eagerly awaiting the outcome. He said that people have taken their own lives and lost their homes as a result. READ MORE
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The Government has pledged just over $5bn to address the problem, but homeowners still face huge bills for repairs and maintenance. Alexandra and Lisa Petty are trying to determine the height of their block in Romford, east London. It might be four stories tall enough to qualify for government assistance. This would free the sisters from the cladding nightmare in which they have been trapped for two years. Lisa said that the sisters were happy and felt a sense of accomplishment after three years of living together. The sisters put the flat up for sale at the end 2019 without knowing what was ahead. However, the sale fell through because the buyer couldn’t get a mortgage without an EWS1 certificate. Lisa spoke with her managing agent and discovered that an inspection had not been completed. In Autumn 2020, the EWS1 inspection revealed that the building contained sections of highly flammable insulation which had to be removed. Alexandra, Lisa and their neighbours have been trapped in limbo since then. Although Lisa is relieved that the Government has finally shown some understanding of the dire situation hundreds of thousands of leaseholders have been in over the past four year, she is concerned that it has not gone far enough. She said that there are still many issues that are just as important as cladding, such as fire breaks and flammable insulation. It would be great if these defects could also be covered. She said, “The fear of living in buildings containing flammable materials is just horrible.” There is also the worry of what will happen to the bill when it finally arrives. Countryside Properties, the company that built Lisa and Baz’s homes, stated: “We are committed helping those affected by unsafe cladding on buildings and have been working closely with building owners to rectify any defects where we are responsible.” We made a provision of?41m earlier in the year to cover the costs. We will continue to work closely with the Government and other industry professionals until the issue is resolved. “A spokesperson for E&J Estates declined to comment on behalf of Lisa, Lisa’s freeholder.