Residents of Royal Artillery Quays in Woolwich have been told they may have to pay £13m to make their homes safe. Our guest, a leaseholder, explains the impact.
Photo credit: Oli Cooper
This is a guest post by Stephen Day. All views expressed are Stephen’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
Just two weeks ago myself and the other residents here at Royal Artillery Quays were left devastated after receiving Section 20 notices for a potential £13m cladding remediation bill.
A Section 20 notice occurs when works are intended to be carried out on your building – it informs the leaseholders that they will be responsible for the costs.
Why is this happening? Well, we were informed in 2018 that our eight towers, built in 2003, had been constructed with materials now classed as flammable.
Since then, we’ve had to have a 24/7 ‘waking watch’ – people paid to walk around our building all day every day to check for any signs of a fire. This too is charged to leaseholders, inflating our annual service charge to around £6,000.
We estimate this to have already cost £1.5m between us.
We had hoped that the original developers of the building would cover the costs of the waking watch, however a dispute over the bills for both that and the remediation has left us worried that everything could be passed to us.
We’re facing bankruptcy
Of course we’ve applied to the government’s Building Safety Fund, but there are no guarantees we will be successful due to such a high number of applications. This leaves us terrified that we will have to foot the unaffordable bill ourselves.
As a result, myself and other residents are living with the very real threat of having to pay more than £35,000 each to fix our buildings. We simply do not have this sort of money.
When we polled our residents, 63% said they’d be in danger of bankruptcy should no help be given.
Personally, I’m working on a startup that has been devastated by COVID-19 – I’m living off a salary of £950 per month based off a business loan.
I’ve already had to find an extra £468 a month just for service charges. If we are billed for remediation, I won’t be able to afford my mortgage payments any more and may lose my home.
I’m so incredibly stressed, worried and angry this is happening to me. I’ve never missed a bill payment in my life! I didn’t install this unsafe cladding, I live in an unsafe flat which I can’t afford to fix and cannot sell. I’d clearly never have bought my home if I’d known any of this.
I’m completely trapped and facing ruin. My mental health is suffering severely.
From what I’ve seen, it’s a similar story across the country.
We are pushing for the original developers to support us and agree to pay to rectify the combustible insulation and cladding in the event that our application for funding fails.
There’s currently no end in sight, but we won’t stop fighting for our home and our futures.
This was a guest post by Stephen Day. All views expressed were Stephen’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
Residents affected by potentially dangerous cladding and other building materials is clearly a consumer news story of major public interest, so we’ll be continuing to publish experiences like Stephen’s here on Which? Conversation.
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 you story, please let us know in the comments.