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Cladding scandal: experiences from the Leaseholders Together protest

As the building safety crisis intensifies, we went along to the Leaseholders Together rally in Parliament Square to hear directly from affected homeowners. Here are their stories.

Since we asked if people had been experiencing mortgage issues with EWS1 forms in July 2020, hundreds of people took to Which? Conversation to tell their stories.

We’ve been covering the cladding and building safety crisis since across our channels, hearing directly from affected leaseholders and helping to publicise the often outrageous bills these people are now facing.

As a result, a Which? survey of nearly 2,000 affected flat owners revealed the appalling toll the situation has taken on their mental health. As things have continued to get worse instead of better, leaseholders decided enough was enough: on the 16 September 2021 the campaign, organised jointly by End Our Cladding Scandal, the National Leasehold Campaign and the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, descended on London’s Parliament Square to demand action from the government.

Hearing your stories

I took the Which? video team along to the rally to hear directly from victims of the crisis and MPs who are part of a cross-party group of MPs and Lords active on this issue. Here are their stories and experiences:

I think we can all agree that homeowners shouldn’t be left to suffer financially and mentally as a result of the mistakes and failings of regulation and industry. And the leaseholders themselves are clear on what they think should happen, telling us consistently that the responsible parties should be identified and forced to pay for the defects they caused.

Future solutions

As support from MPs across the political spectrum is offered and solutions are proposed to the government by leaseholders themselves (such as the ‘Polluter Pays’ Bill written by the residents of Royal Artillery Quays), we’ll be covering what happens next on Which? News, and we’ve also taken a closer look at the latest developments in the new episode of the Which? Money podcast:

Have you been affected by the crisis? Were you at the rally this month? Let us know how it’s impacted your life in the comments.

Comments

As much as this problem seriously impacts on leaseholders, many of them will also be landlords so there will be an impact as well on their tenants if the landlords have to sell up or raise rents in order to cover the rectification costs.

This issue is not confined to cladding because other technical and fire safety deficiencies have come to light during the External Wall Survey inspections.

This piece doesn’t actually state who Which? thinks are the “responsible parties”. The choice seems to lie between the local authorities that did not enforce the building regulations adequately, the government for presiding over an inadequate building control regime, architects and engineers who designed and specified buildings with inadequate cladding and fire safety installations, developers who put profit before safety and sold properties that have proved to be fatally flawed, mortgage lenders and the surveying profession that did not make sure the buildings on which they first advanced funds were safe and compliant, or freeholders who acquired blocks on the basis of inadequate surveys and appraisals.

It seems bizarre that after so much time since this scandal emerged following the Grenfell Tower catastrophe we are no nearer knowing where the liability lies.

My own view is that none of the present leaseholders of the properties affected should have to meet any expense on remediation and interim protective measures, and that each of the other parties should bear a proportionate share with the public sector [central and local government] accepting at least 50% of the cost of rectification. Those authorities should be compelled by law to expedite the progress of rectification so that leaseholders can sell their properties without further excessive delay and, where applicable, their tenants can have some reassurance over their future position as well as peace of mind in respect of the fire risk. The longer that ‘waking watches’ have to continue I fear that another tragedy could occur; so far as I can see, such expedients do not make for a satisfactory risk assessment and invite the question whether such buildings should remain in occupation.

I am not personally affected by this in any way but I have been taking a close interest in its progress and am appalled at the financial and personal implications on all those directly affected. It is unfortunate that Which? itself, understandably, did not have the expertise and capacity in the beginning to get more closely involved itself as its authority and influence might have added weight to the campaign for a fair resolution of this extremely complex issue where several sides are fighting against each other.

theo ramos says:
1 October 2021

John And Tom and others have All Brilliant Points.I only wish you All had the Powers to resolve ..This Cladding Mess Now 1/10/21..and NOT Delay any longer
Lives Will Unfortunately suffer through mental/sucside .and Maybe another Grenfell..I hope not
.etc …etc Why..
When the Government can Stop This NOW

As Grenfell highlighted these problems why, after over four years, have conclusions not been reached acted upon. I think it a disgrace that public enquiries such as this are allowed to take so much time to investigate issues leaving vulnerable people in limbo and leaving defective systems and organisations to function without remedy.

Ian Abley says:
3 October 2021

The Cladding campaigners are making a fundamental error. They say developers and contractors must pay, and ask the Government to make that happen. But it was the Government who knew from the RADAR reports of 2000/2002 that Class 0 Cladding, as approved by the Ministry, was combustible. Ministers from Nick Raynsford onwards had a policy of approving combustible Cladding under their Section 6 powers in the 1984 Building Act. That is why so much is in the built stock. It is Government that caused the problem and the taxpayer will ultimately pay.