/ Money

My daughter is living a cladding nightmare, but I’m so proud of her

Linda Pike’s daughter could be facing bankruptcy due to the cladding scandal. Here she explains the impact it’s had on them both in her own words.

This is a guest article by Linda Pike. All views expressed are Linda’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

I’m a single mum who’s brought up two children on her own. I’ve worked hard all my life and should be thinking about retiring. But my daughter, Steph, is caught up in the cladding/building safety crisis currently affecting thousands of people across the UK.

Steph is facing a bill of at least £70,000 on top of many other ongoing costs through no fault of her own. She cannot afford it, but nor can she afford to go bankrupt: as a solicitor she would be disqualified from practicing. She would lose her life savings, her career…. everything.

‘My daughter did everything right’

In late 2017, a few months after the Grenfell fire, Steph purchased a one bedroom flat in a newly converted office block in Bristol. With the tragedy at Grenfell Tower fresh in everyone’s minds, she enquired about cladding and everything progressed without any issues – she did everything right.

The first line of the purchase contract says the building complied with Building Regulations and the building had been signed off by a building control inspector. Like many other parents I helped her on the housing ladder by lending her some money.

But after the purchase, everything changed. It turned out it didn’t comply with regulations at all; it has major fire safety defects such as missing cavity barriers and flammable insulation. There’s a small amount of cladding, but it’s minor compared with the other issues Steph has been told will now cost an estimated £7.6m to correct.

It only cost £7.9m to convert the building from offices to flats in the first place! The cost will be divided between the 109 leaseholders..

There’s no way out

People find this situation absolutely unbelievable but, believe me, we’ve tried everything. There seems to be no legal way out; the developer no longer exists as the company has been wound up.

The costs are continuing to spiral and the leaseholders are responsible for paying them. Despite numerous statements from the government that leaseholders should not pay, we’re just not seeing the action to back up these words. The situation is bleak.

When it first came to light that Steph’s flat was affected, I remember telling her: ‘don’t sit back and do nothing. Do everything you can, so that you don’t look back and say ‘I wish I had done more’.

She has definitely followed that advice and done everything she could have. This has ranged from helping to form a tenants association for her building, to ensuring the injustice of the situation is publicised far and wide by appearing on numerous TV and radio shows. She has also contributed to a huge number of newspaper and magazine articles.

It’s all consuming – she refers to ‘cladmin’ as her second full time job. I’m so proud of her for fighting and many people have said how they admire her for what she’s done, but it has not been without huge personal cost.

The cladding impact on mental health

What people don’t see is what goes on behind the scenes and the impact on her mental health – the days of despair, tears, and the struggle to keep this all going. The anxiety related to all this has also resulted in trips to the doctor with difficulty breathing.

Which? News: the mental health impact of the cladding crisis

As a mother, it’s so hard to see your daughter struggle in this way. Ironically, the fact that she is living in a dangerous building is put to the back of our minds because the financial impact can sometimes feel so much worse. It shouldn’t be that way. You encourage and support, when deep down you have those same bleak feelings, because there seems to be no way out. I do everything in my power to help her.

I’ve spent many hours reviewing and commenting on her draft articles, attending rallies, asking all my friends, colleagues and relatives to write to their MPs, writing for articles just like this one, and exploring legal avenues and other legal cases.

Each day I wake up and it feels like there’s a dark cloud above my head. I feel anger and frustration at the complete injustice of the situation, and helpless that I cannot do more. We’re all encouraged to ‘get on the housing ladder’, but now flat owners are being left high and dry.

Ministers keep saying leaseholders shouldn’t pay, but where is the action? How can they let innocent people go through something like this? This has all driven me to becoming a very angry mum on Twitter!

In the meantime, both our lives are in limbo, and it could go on for years. Steph cannot sell, move on and continues to be forced to live in an unsafe building. Meanwhile, huge profits are being made by some who breached building regulations in the first place. Where was the enforcement? We need accountability, we need a solution and, most importantly, we just need this nightmare to end.

This was a guest article by Linda Pike. All views expressed were Linda’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.

Are you a parent whose child is now caught up in the cladding scandal? Did you help them purchase their property? Let us know how it’s affected you in the comments.

Comments

Sending heartfelt sympathy seems an empty gesture and assumptions are just conjecture from the outside. I would ask whether the initial statement from the builders about cladding safety has any legal binding and could be challenged since it was false. Leasehold laws and complex and no doubt you have been through them all. I can but hope that Which? in bringing this injustice to light, can use its influence to help you further and also extrapolate this to include others in the same situation. Someone in government should have their ears burning!

Hopefully those affected by the cladding problem might be helped: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-england-london-59559864

Our ‘cladding’ is 600 mm of natural stone, so we are not personally affected, but I keep writing to my MP about this. I would urge everyone to do the same. It is a national scandal. Even Michael Gove said that leaseholders should not have to pay, but he has gone a bit quiet since.

Sara Fox says:
7 December 2021

This is absolutely disgusting, they are caught in this trap with no way out… I’m speechless…

Susan Howell says:
7 December 2021

It is outrageous and my heart goes out to you both and the thousands of others who are in the same situation. I too am a leaseholder of a property that has cladding and structural issues and the inflated service charges to cover the gigantic hike in building insurance and 24/7 Waking Watch have been crippling. To offset the costs several leaseholders got together and provided 12 hours a day Waking Watch for 11 months until we got heat detectors fitted. Not only did it have a significant impact on the finances, we got to know several of our neighbours and provided information and support for each other. The government has got to step in and make those responsible pay otherwise they can kiss another term in office goodbye.

Commercial contractors will always take the lowest price for building affordable and profitable properties; within those that are allowed by the Building Regulations. Who is responsible for these regulations? Ultimately the government, of any party. Therefore the government should pay if the regs are followed, if not the firms or the directors who avoided the regs retired or not. The threat of fine or jail post deliberate avoidance of the regs should be enshrined in law. Firms conveniently going bust should not absolve directors of responsibilities and dump it onto unknowing buyers. The directors could always obtain insurance for this.

This is absolutely outrageous. I have a flat in Colchester and am in the same situation. The buildings management company has information about the cladding, but when I enquired about when it will be remedied, the actual manager in charge ‘doesn’t know’. I am unable to sell the flat, the management company is very good taking their service charge for doing very little!

Our daughter is also living in this nightmare and it is affecting the minds of our whole family. It is not just cladding but a host of other fire safety defects that are not covered by the Government’s wholly inadequate ‘fund’. Ministers seem to be saying leaseholders should not pay but the reality is that service charges mean leaseholders have to pay. Who would have thought that leaseholders can be made to pay for the unsafe, inadequate fabric of the building they live in but do not own. Building owners/investors are not contributing and no doubt are looking forward to the day when they get a fully-repaired building at no cost to themselves. The Government must get a grip and do so much more to bring this crisis to an end.

This is unacceptable.If the developers are no longer trading then the Local or National Government should pay.What good are building regulations if they do not cover cladding. It is not only about individule products but about the combination of materials. Where are the new regulations ensuring todays buildings are of good and fireproof content?

My son has been hugely affected by this 40+ year history of negligence, incompetence & corruption…from building ‘inspectors’, serial goverments (of all political colours), construction product manufacturers, surveyors, valuers etc etc etc.
Those who are being left to pay the price of shoddy building planning & regulation are the only ones who are totally innocent of all blame ie the ‘leaseholders’ ie. those who ‘own’ the right to use the space within all these affected buildings.

And to add insult to mortal injury, those ‘leaseholders’ who are also part-freeholders (supposedly the most positive leaseholder status), whose buildings are under 11 metres high are still COMPLETELY UPROTECTED from any of the costs of remediating faults in the construction of their buildings.

It’s my understanding that the 1st duty of any government is to keep the country’s citizens safe…all of us whose offspring have worked so hard & saved so long to get a toe onto the proerty ladder in England will have lost faith in the whole system. I certainly have.