Leaseholders urge government to cover £22m cost of cladding removal

Gallions Reach

Leaseholders in the Royal Docks have spoken out after they were advised that replacing cladding on their buildings could cost them £67,000 each. - Credit: Google

People caught in the cladding crisis have urged the government to foot an estimated £22million bill to make their buildings safe.

The leaseholders, who spoke on condition they weren't identified, bought flats at Gallions Approach in the Royal Docks before the scandal, believing the blocks were safe.

But now they have been told cladding has to be removed from seven buildings on the estate.

A 29-year-old resident, who paid £375,000 for his flat, said: "This situation is enraging.

"[Residents] feel powerless, depressed and anxious we might go bankrupt just to fix a building we do not own and which we were told had no fire risk at all by the experts."

A second leaseholder claimed: "The government should provide the funding. It's their fault these buildings were built to a shoddy standard. They reduced the amount of regulations.

"My mental health has been suffering for a while thinking about it all the time."

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The finance worker asked how she can start a family if she is stuck in a one-bedroom flat which she can no longer put on the market because of the crisis.

An EWS1 fire safety review of her building concluded safety standards haven't been met, which means she is unable to sell or switch mortgage provider.

A government spokesperson said: "We understand the worry many people will be feeling, which is why our priority is removing dangerous cladding as quickly as possible.

"We are bringing forward the biggest improvements to building and fire safety in a generation, including through a comprehensive over £5billion investment to help protect hundreds of thousands of leaseholders from the cost of replacing unsafe cladding on their homes.

"The government has been clear that building safety is the responsibility of the building owner and they should meet the costs of remediation without passing them on to leaseholders wherever possible."

Gallions Approach leaseholders were advised on March 12 that the cost of replacing the cladding could be in the region of £22m, which amounts to £67,000 per household.

Estate manager, Gallions Approach Management Limited (GAML), wrote to leaseholders on March 26 to say a waking watch is also required at an annual cost of £157,000. 

The letter states a service charge will increase by 25 per cent to reflect the cost and fire stopping works.

"[O]nce all works are completed, we will look to drastically remove the service charge back down," the letter adds.

The Recorder understands GAML has applied for money from the government's building safety fund - set up to help cover the cost of replacing cladding.

But the March 12 letter warns there is a possibility the full cost of the works wouldn't be met by the funding.

A software consultant, who bought his flat for £400,000, said his growing family was trapped, unable to sell following a fire safety review of his building.

The 40-year-old planned to move so the family can be closer to a school he and his wife would like their daughter to attend.

He said: "This is not a problem I caused. I did everything by the book. Why do I have to fix something which is not my problem? We're stuck here. Our life plan is on hold."

The government says it has identified the removal of dangerous cladding as a priority and expects work to be underway or completed on about 95pc of the most high-risk buildings identified at the start of 2020.

The spokesperson pointed to the "unprecedented" £5billion investment in building safety through which the government will fund the cost of replacing cladding for leaseholders in buildings 18 metres and over in England. 

A £30m waking watch relief fund has been set up to reduce the burden on leaseholders.

The fund is focused on buildings with the highest risk - over 18m tall with confirmed unsafe cladding and where there is a waking watch in place.

GAML declined to comment.