Lawyer facing £70k cladding removal bill could go bankrupt and lose her job if told to pay

16 September 2021, 18:34 | Updated: 17 September 2021, 17:43

Leaseholders could face extremely high bills
Leaseholders could face extremely high bills. Picture: Alamy

By Will Taylor

A lawyer fears she could be made bankrupt and lose her job if she has to pay a mammoth £70,000 bill to remove cladding from her building.

Hundreds of protesters gathered in Parliament Square on Thursday to demand the Government "steps in" to make their homes safe.

They want the cladding removed from the buildings they live in without facing exorbitant fees to do so.

Steph Pike, a lawyer from Bristol, told LBC she was protesting because she faces a five-figure bill to pay for work to remove cladding from her home.

"If I was asked to pay £70,000 in say 28 days, which I possibly could be, I obviously couldn't afford that – I think I'd have to really seriously consider bankruptcy.

Read more: Grenfell Tower: Council official 'regrets' not asking about cladding fire safety

"I'm a lawyer – if I become bankrupt I lose my practising certificate so not only am I risking losing my home it's also my career on the line.

"It's an utter shambles – I don’t think anyone knows how to deal with this. Someone really needs to take charge."

The Government has set aside £5 billion to spend on building safety, with £3.5 billion to go to removing unsafe cladding for all leaseholders who live in residential buildings that are at least 18 metres high.

Another scheme exists for smaller buildings.

It said that no leaseholder under the scheme should pay more than £50 a month towards removing unsafe cladding.

The Housing Ministry said: "We're spending over £5 billion to fund the replacement of unsafe cladding in the highest risk buildings and are making the biggest improvements to building safety in a generation.

"We've been clear throughout that building owners and industry should make buildings safe without passing on costs to leaseholders – and our new measures will legally require owners of high-rise buildings to prove they have tried all routes to cover the cost of essential safety works.

"Alongside this, our ambitious leasehold reforms will benefit millions of homeowners by ending unfair practices in the leasehold market and delivering on our commitment to set ground rents to zero on new leases."

The protesters took to Parliament Square on Michael Gove's first day as housing secretary, having been given the job in Wednesday's reshuffle.

Ms Pike said: "We've been told that the cost to remediate our building is £7.6 million and that's split between just over 100 leaseholders.

"My bill's expected to be around £70,000 and that doesn't even include a waking watch, or the fire alarm or any interim measures.

"I don't know when it's gong to land or exactly how much it's going to be and I don't know whether they're going to charge it all in one go. It's so uncertain."

LBC's Rachael Venables said she also spoke to one person who has been suffering from PTSD and wakes up at night fearing for her family.

Ms Pike said: "It's obviously Michael Gove's first day in his job and I’m hoping he sees what\s going on here today and actually takes note and decides to sort it out."