Residents in block with Grenfell cladding face £2m bill for replacement panels
A tribunal will take place on February 6 to determine who should foot the bill.
Residents in a privately-owned high-rise block with the same cladding that was used on Grenfell Tower may be forced to pay millions for replacement panels to be installed.
Leaseholders at Citiscape in Croydon, south London, face a bill of up to £2 million to remove and replace the aluminium composite material (ACM) panels, thought to have fuelled the spread of the Grenfell Tower fire.
The building is one of 228 across the country which failed fire safety tests carried out by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in the weeks after the blaze, in which 71 people died.
First Port Property Services, the building’s property manager, was advised in August that measures should be taken to replace the cladding.
It has written to residents twice, outlining that costs will likely be covered through service charges, which would be borne collectively by leaseholders.
In November First Port advised residents that the cost of replacing the unsafe cladding was about £500,000, before revising the estimate to between £1.8 and £2 million last Tuesday.
In the latest letter they said: “We know that this work and the costs are unwelcome. However, as your property manager, our first priority has to be your safety.”
With 95 flats affected, each household’s share could be between approximately £13,300 and £31,300, to be paid in instalments from March 1.
In addition, the cost of fire marshals, which have been in place since June and will need to remain until cladding work is completed, may bump up the costs by about £300,000 per year.
A hearing at a first-tier property tribunal will take place on February 6 to determine who should foot the bill.
Local MP Steve Reed raised concerns last year with Communities Secretary Sajid Javid, who replied he would urge landlords to “not attempt to pass on costs to leaseholders”.
He said all local authorities and housing associations in discussion with the department were choosing not to pass the cost on, as were some private companies.
Alexandra Blanc, 37, who bought her flat in 2014, said: “This situation has become out of control.
“I received a letter telling me I have to pay more than I earn in one year salary in six weeks for something I am not even responsible for.
“I’m very worried about the prospect of losing my flat. I have contacted estate agents to try and sell it but they told me this flat will never sell under those circumstances.
“My equity has also become negative since this debacle.”
Richard, the father of a 95-year-old resident, said: “With the demands for the horrendous costs associated with the replacement of the cladding and firewatch, it is unreasonable to make such a demand from a pensioner receiving only the state pension, being barely sufficient to cover the winter bills and his daily upkeep.”
A FirstPort Property Services spokesman said: “We are working hard to ensure residents are safe and supported during what we know is a challenging time.
“We recognise that the potential costs are significant and are committed to minimising them, while putting residents’ safety first.
“As the property manager, we are discharging our responsibilities under the leasehold agreements and working with residents as closely as possible to find a solution to this very complex situation.
“The Government has pledged to offer support to owners and residents of high-rise buildings.
“However, given the pressing need to undertake these essential safety works and the potential costs to leaseholders, we and others in the property industry welcome any clarity the Government can provide on what support will be made available.”
A housing ministry spokesman said: “All of the councils and housing associations we are in discussions with have said they are not going to pass on the costs of essential fire safety measures to individual flat owners within their buildings.
“We are clear we would like to see private sector landlords follow the lead of the social sector and not pass on the costs.
“We are giving an extra £465,000 to LEASE, who provide free legal advice to leaseholders, so they can provide a dedicated advice and dispute resolution service for people in buildings that require additional fire safety measures.”