/ Home & Energy

My entire life has been changed by combustible cladding

30 year-old Abi from Leeds is trapped in an unsafe property. She can’t start a family and is facing potential bankruptcy. Here, she tells us her story.

This is a guest post by Abi Tubis. All views expressed are Abi’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?. 

Hello, my name is Abi and I’m a 30 year-old Key Account Manager from Leeds. My husband and I bought our first home in 2017 at the ages of 24 and 26, just six months before we got married.

We were able to buy a flat together so early in our lives as we both worked multiple jobs from young ages.

Achieving this took seven years of hard work and sacrifice – we never even took the same day off together, apart from rare holidays, as we were always working on our main goal of saving up for a home of our own. It was difficult and very challenging, but we felt it would be worth it.

I just want to start a family

In summer 2019 we decided to start trying for a baby. I was approaching 30 years old and, unfortunately, due to medical reasons, I need to try sooner rather than later for a chance to have a family.

So in July 2019, knowing we had equity in our home, we started looking at houses on the market: it was time to sell our flat and buy a family home to accommodate for a child.

But in October 2019, following the Grenfell tragedy, our high rise building undertook an inspection to check the materials that it had been built with. The results were devastating – my life has changed in ways I never could have imagined.

Homeowners stuck with unsellable and potentially unsafe flats

Unsafe materials we never knew about before were found. We visited banks and brokers, but each time were told we would not be able to sell our flat until it has been remediated.

My dreams of having a family are now in tatters. Following the report, a 24/7 waking fire watch was installed and is being charged to the leaseholders – it’s already cost me £5,000.

Last week we were told the remediation bill could reach £1.2 million – that is likely to work out at a further £15,000 to me directly.

Our lives are on hold

These figures mean we may lose our home and have to declare bankruptcy – I can’t bring a child into the world facing this situation.

Our lives are on hold due to the combustible cladding installed on our building, along with other fire safety defects through no fault of my own. I can’t believe I may have to pay the harshest possible price for the mistakes of others.

We bought a flat with the assurance it was safe, but the rug has been pulled from beneath our feet.

We’re now waiting to hear if we will be able to get funding from the government’s Building Safety Fund, but like Stephen in another story covered here, there are no guarantees of success with such a high number of buildings applying.

A year on from receiving the report that changed our lives, we are no closer to the end.

This was a guest post by Abi Tubis. All views expressed were Abi’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?. 

Richard Anderson, Which? Corporate Reputation Manager:

This important issue is a consumer news story of major public interest, so we’ll be continuing to publish experiences like Abi’s here on Which? Conversation.

While Which? unfortunately does not have the expertise to be at the forefront of the issue, we expect – and certainly hope – that publicising these personal experiences will help to raise awareness and provide evidence for those groups and individuals advocating for solutions.

If you’ve been affected and would like to tell your story, please let us know in the comments.

Comments

It is very distressing to hear such stories and there are, no doubt, tens of thousands of similar ones. I have a friend stuck in a flat in a 4 storey block, unable to sell.

I suggest for each building we need to find a way of doing inspections much more quickly, and easy ones first to release as many people as possible from this log jam.

Fot the others, with potentially dangerous cladding, we need to uncover whether the materials were incorrectly specified, supplied or installed, incorrectly aporoved by building control, or whether everything complied at the time and, in the light of experience, essential safety standards have to be improved and in retrospect.

Then we can see who is responsible. Whether they are around to take responsibility is a different matter.

As well as these individual stories we also need suggestions for solutions. Even though Which? does not have internal expertise it should be abke to report on what other expert bodies are doing to try to resolve this.

Rachel says:
9 November 2020

Thanks for raising this issue on behalf of everyone stuck in the same position.

You’re welcome. We’ll continue to let leaseholders tell their stories in their own words in order to help push for change.

Certainly, but what change. What do Which? see as solutions to the different scenarios raised?

Kristian Moseley says:
9 November 2020

I own a flat with my brother in a 5 story building (under 18 metres) that is brick built and only a few years old. We’re unable to sell and have been told it will be a 7-10 year wait before were able to get an EWS1 form. Our mortgage company won’t even let us do a Transfer of Equity so that means I’m unable to start a life with my partner in a new property.

Jan Titcombe says:
17 November 2020

I have a flat on a large complex which has passed fire inspection tests and where an ESW1 is not required but others needing to sell their flats have had their sales fall through because lenders are insisting on ESW1s. Not as distressing as those in buildings that are unsafe but a huge issue nationwide that needs a solution.

Thankyou for publishing this story. This is a harrowing experience for all involved and one that is financially and mentally ruining 000s of people whom through no fault of their own are being punished by this govt for the negligence of developers, failure in regulations and a govt that seems hell bent on protecting all the guilty parties. Why are there no consumer protection for people who have bought flats – you get more rights if you bought an iron.

Harrowing certainly does sum it up. We’ll continue to have people tell their stories here, which we hope will help them raise awareness and provide evidence to those who can make a real difference.

Thank you for telling and highlighting this story. Thousands are facing mental and financial ruin because of this scandal. Our Government needs find its morals and hold those who are responsible accountable rather than breaking innocent leaseholders who, through no fault of their own, are trapped in this nightmare.

I thinking this is a sad story. I worked in insurance and in the 80’s my company were refusing to continue to insure commercial buildings with with these type of panels. I don’t understand how architects could have recommended this type of construction for domestic property – the spread of fire was well known.

Paul Bradley says:
10 November 2020

I have a flat in Manchester that I need to sell to help fund my retirement. I cannot sell due to the lack of an EWS1 form even though it is under 18mts. The date for the promised report keeps slipping back so I don’t even know if there is a problem or, if there is, how much it will cost and when it could be rectified. The managing agent needs constant chasing simply to give the leaseholders basic information. We are all in limbo.

I’m surprised that property companies don’t want to buy these flats, albeit at some discount, so as to benefit when the cladding is removed. Our national housing shortage is desperate and so investors could be confident of an eventual sale at a good price.