Cladding crisis: Leaseholders tweet #SaveUsSunak to plead for financial help

24 November 2020, 12:47 | Updated: 24 November 2020, 14:53

Nick Hardinges

By Nick Hardinges

Leaseholders who face the daunting prospect of paying tens of thousands of pounds to remove dangerous cladding on their homes are pleading with the chancellor for help with costs.

Flat owners and renters living in properties deemed unsafe are being told they must spend thousands of pounds to have dangerous cladding removed from buildings that most do not own.

The government-led decision to refurbish tower blocks came in the wake of the tragic Grenfell Tower fire which left 72 people dead in 2017.

But with Rishi Sunak set to outline his spending review on Wednesday, leaseholders are urging the chancellor to "end our cladding scandal" by covering the costs of removing the hazardous material.

On Tuesday, two MPs from across the House of Commons teamed up to demand ministers offer greater help to those affected by the scandal.

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Labour's Clive Betts and the Conservative Stephen McPartland wrote to other Tory MPs to drum up support for leaseholders living in high-rise private residential buildings "that do not meet fire safety standards through no fault of their own".

Many of those impacted face the troubling prospect of "huge remedial bills of tens of thousands of pounds and cannot sell or remortgage their homes in the meantime", the letter continued.

The document says it is both "astonishing" and "not acceptable or fair" for leaseholders to pay 100% of the bill to make the buildings safe despite owning a fraction of the property.

It argues that millions are being "left behind" even with the £1 billion Building Safety Fund that was set up to remove unsafe cladding.

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Leaseholders are facing extortionate costs for removing dangerous cladding from unsafe buildings
Leaseholders are facing extortionate costs for removing dangerous cladding from unsafe buildings. Picture: PA

Olympic Park Homes Action Group - which represents residents across 65 apartment blocks in East Village, Stratford, in east London - demanded help from the chancellor via social media.

The group wrote on Twitter: "'Quite simply, no one besides the government thinks the leaseholder should pay' - @CommonsHCLG.

"Millions of leaseholders are counting on you @RishiSunak to do the right thing. #SaveUsSunak #EndOurCladdingScandal."

Alison Hills, a lawyer at Irwin Mitchell, posted a video begging Mr Sunak for help saying he has "the power to change this".

She said: "This is a plea to Rishi Sunak to increase the funding allocated to the Building Safety Bill. Only £1.6 billion has been allocated for this when we all know this is a £15 billion problem."

Ms Hills added: "Please do the right thing before hundreds of thousands of lives are completely destroyed through bankruptcy and homelessness.

"You can change this."

Ms Hills later posted a second video, saying leaseholders are "literally the only innocent parties" and so they should not "pay such severe prices for the failures of others".

Another user, named Jason, wrote: "We didn’t build our building, we didn’t provide the materials, we didn’t sign them off as safe when they weren’t, we didn’t change regulations and we don’t even own our buildings!

"We are the ONLY innocent party! @RishiSunak.

"#SaveUsSunak #hmtreasury #EndOurCladdingScandal."

Mr Betts, who represents Sheffield South East, asked an urgent question on the issue in the Commons on Tuesday.

Answering the Labour MP, Housing minister Christopher Pincher said: "I cannot say, Mr Speaker, that there will not be some costs at some point related to some defect in historic building safety that will not fall upon the leaseholder.

"But we want to make sure, through the public money that we are spending..., that we find innovative solutions to ensure that such costs are as minimal as possible."

Earlier in the month, Mr Smith, of Southampton Itchen, wrote to Communities Secretary Robert Jenrick demanding that the government pays to "get these people out of their unfortunate situation".