Leaseholders face £100k bill after fire safety defects revealed

7 June 2021, 09:30

By Michael Gaffney

Leaseholders at a block of flats in Salford are facing bills of almost £100,000 to repair fire safety defects exposed since the Grenfell Tower disaster.

The overall cost of fixing a series of problems at Transport House will be £3 million, shared between the around 30 flats in the complex.

But the block is too small to qualify for support from the government’s Building Safety Fund, meaning the leaseholders are left having to cover the full cost themselves.

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Buildings under 18 metres in height will be part of a government-backed loan scheme, which is being promised to help leaseholders manage the costs involved - but LBC found last month that it could take years to set up.

But in the meantime, Transport House’s management company - Irwell Valley Homes - want to press on with works.

Leaseholders at Transport House in Salford have been landed with a £100,000 bill for fire safety works
Leaseholders at Transport House in Salford have been landed with a £100,000 bill for fire safety works. Picture: Global

They argue immediate measures are necessary to ensure the safety of the building and its residents.

Leaseholders have told LBC that with no immediately available help on the table, they are facing financial ruin.

Retired NHS worker Mandy Sandhu, who was hoping to sell her flat and find a bungalow due to reduced mobility, said: "I can’t even do that now and I’m sort of stuck here. My health isn’t getting any better, its just sort of going downhill, so I don’t know which way to go.

"I’m on my NHS pension at the moment. That’s not going to pay much, at the end of the day, and whatever the service charge goes up to is going to be a kick in the teeth. I’ll have to cut back on a lot of things."

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Some of the leaseholders are shared owners, but despite owning only 50 per cent of their home in some cases, still find themselves liable for 100 per cent of the cost of remediation.

In a similar situation, Darren Matthews told LBC it will be impossible for him pay what is being asked.

He said: "As an everyday working man, the chances of me paying £97,000 are limited. I can pay my mortgage, I can live day by day the same as everybody does but I can’t pay £97,000 and it seriously does question my future.

"I’ll just wipe out whatever I thought might have been a fair and secure future."

The leaseholders are also questioning why works need to happen now - especially while the government’s promised loan scheme is not yet available.

Leaseholders at Transport House say they cannot afford the cost
Leaseholders at Transport House say they cannot afford the cost. Picture: Global

Paul Willis, who bought his flat when he retired, said: "The government keep saying that buildings below 18 metres are not unsafe and yet they don’t do anything about the fact that people like Irwell Valley can say they are - and then decide to rebuild a building at someone else’s cost.

"Why are they ploughing on so fast? Why can’t they just do what the government has said they want them to do, and back off a bit?

"The construction industry has an awful lot on their plate just to fix the buildings that are above 18 metres. They could wait ten years for this one, couldn’t they?"

READ MORE: Labour hits out at Govt's cladding loan scheme which 'could take years to set up'

Irwell Valley Homes spokesperson said: "The safety of residents is our number one priority. We are working with Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service, accredited fire risk assessors and independent fire consultants, and acting on their advice to effectively manage fire safety.

"Responding to the government’s guidance and the impending new building safety legislation and applying this to existing buildings, is challenging and complex, and we sympathise with leaseholders who are affected.

"At Transport House, we have explored many options to modify the current building to meet the new guidelines. The only viable option that the independent fire engineers can support is replacing the render and fire cavity breaks.

"This is extensive work. We appreciate that the costs are significant and we have had these estimated and verified by two independent quantity surveyors. We will be working with leaseholders to explore all possible options available to them and how to achieve the best value for money."

Many of Salford's high-rise towers have been at the centre of the UK's cladding crisis
Many of Salford's high-rise towers have been at the centre of the UK's cladding crisis. Picture: PA Images

The company criticised ministers for putting leaseholders "in an extremely difficult position" due to its stance on funding for buildings of a certain height.

The spokesperson continued: "At the moment, the government has only committed grant funding to support fire remediation works to buildings which are 18 metres and above, so Transport House does not qualify.

"This puts the leaseholders there in an extremely difficult position and how they pay for the work required to their homes is a huge concern. The government has said that a low-cost loan scheme will be made available, and we are waiting on the details to understand how this may help.

"We are awaiting further guidance from the government on the proposed loan scheme before agreeing and starting any works. Until then we are progressing with interim measures to improve building safety including the installation of an enhanced fire alarm system.

"We know this is a difficult situation for the homeowners affected and remain committed to supporting them and working together to try to find a solution that works for them, and satisfies the new required safety regulations."

A Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government spokesperson said: "We understand many people are worried - we’re protecting those in buildings between 11m-18m from unaffordable costs, ensuring no leaseholder will pay more than £50 a month to remove unsafe cladding.

"We have been clear building owners should make their buildings safe without passing on costs to leaseholders - and we will ensure the industry pays its fair share towards the costs of cladding remediation through a new levy and tax.

"This is on top of the more than £5 billion to fully fund the replacement of unsafe cladding in highest risk buildings."