Croydon residents told they must pay to replace cladding

By agency reporter
March 15, 2018

Fuel Poverty Action (FPA) is offering its support to Croydon’s Citiscape residents, who on 13 March 2018 were told, in a ruling which may be challenged, that they must pay for cladding to be replaced on their building.   

Ruth London of FPA says, “Like the survivors of Grenfell, and like the residents of social housing  tower blocks who are freezing and damp in buildings where cladding has been removed, leaseholders are being treated like sacrificial lambs. The cladding crisis in the UK is not a natural disaster. Residents are asked to pay, while others profit.”

"Yesterday’s tribunal ruling exposes the gross injustice of UK leasehold contracts and the way they are interpreted, which leave many residents in poverty and in danger from both fire and cold.”

Many people are surprised that leaseholders,  people who have been able to achieve the dream of buying – or buying a share of – their home,  can actually be in a position where they cannot afford to heat it, due to soaring, unaccountable service charges, dysfunctional or extremely expensive communal heating systems, lack of insulation and even basic repairs.  Behind a shiny facade, residents may be shivering, even before cladding is removed. They have no hope of redress – a gross injustice now being examined in Parliament.  

Now, many are faced with bills of tens of thousands of pounds to replace cladding, or bring their homes up to fire safety standards which should have been part of what they paid for.

Ms London said, “Central government must live up to its promises after Grenfell, take responsibility for inadequate regulation, and ensure that no one is left in danger because they cannot afford to rectify failures for which others are responsible. The government  must also ensure that when cladding is being replaced, it goes up when it comes down, not months or years later, and that residents have all they need to keep warm and dry in its absence.

As detailed in a briefing for MPs, FPA says there are many parties responsible for the disaster of flammable cladding on high rise buildings:

  • Manufacturers, and the plastics industry, which took advantage of the government’s “bonfire of regulations” to lobby for plastic-based panels, and which threatened legal action against those who exposed the risk.  Prices of materials and work are now being increased to cash in on the new demand for replacement of cladding.   
  • Developers who chose these materials to save small sums (£5,000 in the case of Grenfell), and the owners of the buildings: in Citiscape’s case, a landlord, who reportedly owns 300,000 freeholds, with his brother has a net worth of £850 million, and recently bought a yacht estimated at £20 million.   
  • Local councils, which have failed in their duty to ensure new buildings and refurbishments are safe.  
  • But ultimately the responsibility must rest with central government, who have allowed regulations and inspection regimes to be watered down, privatised, and outdated by new materials. Central government has also starved local authorities of the resources they need, and authorised cladding like that used on Grenfell Tower and Citiscape.

The ones who bear no responsibility are the residents, yet they are already paying the cost, in sleepless nights and in maintaining fire wardens.  

Residents of many social housing blocks have already had the cladding removed, and they too are paying – however much heat they use they cannot keep their homes warm in exposed, wind-whipped towers, and condensation and rain penetration are causing serious damp and mould.   

Citiscape residents face this in future too, on top of bills that many simply cannot pay.  The suggestions of first tier tribunal chairman Angus Andrew that Citiscape residents could have claims against the government and other parties are welcome, but still leave them in an impossible situation.  

FPA says it is time for the government to implement its promise in the days after Grenfell burned:   

  • “My Government will do whatever it takes to help those affected, get justice and keep our people safe.” (Theresa May, Statement from the Prime Minister, 17 June 2017)
  • “Landlords have a legal obligation to provide safe buildings and where they cannot do that we expect alternative accommodation to be provided. We cannot and will not ask people to live in unsafe homes.”   (Theresa May, oral statement to Parliament 22 June 2017)

* Read the FPA briefing Cladding and insulation - a national emergency here

* Fuel Povery Action https://www.fuelpovertyaction.org.uk

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