Leeds woman stung with massive increase in charges due to flat's cladding problems

A Leeds woman is paying the costs after buying a flat which she was assured had no issues with cladding, only to be stung with huge service charges and insurance price hikes.

By Anna Doherty
Thursday, 4th February 2021, 11:28 am
Updated Thursday, 4th February 2021, 12:26 pm
Pippa has been stung by huge increases in costs due to cladding issues
Pippa has been stung by huge increases in costs due to cladding issues

Pippa Hamshaw, aged 31 from Leeds, bought her flat in Leeds city centre in 2019 and was informed the next year that her flat had issue with flammable cladding, flammable insulation, missing fire breaks and wooden balconies.

Pippa has faced a series of extra costs to pay herself to deal with the issues - and says her service charges have shot up by 162%, making the monthly costs more than the mortgage itself.

She said: "I just feel totally let down by the whole system, the government could do something right now. I feel like everyone's winning bar the leaseholder."

Some leaseholders in Leeds have even declared bankruptcy due to not being able to afford fixes required as a result of cladding problems.

In August Pippa was billed a £1,400 levy to cover interim safety measures including 24/7 fire marshals monitoring the building, heat sensor installation and five-fold hikes in building insurance.

She was told to pay this within 28 days or risk lease forfeiture.

In addition to the levy since January, she now also has an additional service charge of £357.50 per month to cover these interim measures.

"This takes my monthly service charge up to £630 which more than my mortgage, which is an 162.5% increase in service charge from when I first bought my flat."

In May 2020, the government announced a Building Safety Fund to deal with the problem, offering £1.6 billion to restore buildings to a safe standard.

But Pippa said this 'falls incredibly short' of what is actually needed and that the fund only covers buildings with a height above 18m, adding that many buildings that are still unsafe don’t even qualify for the funding.

It is over three years since the disaster of Grenfell Tower and many buildings across the country are still identified as unsafe.

Labour leader Keir Starmer has urged the government to address the situation, declaring it "extraordinary" that so many people are still living under these conditions.

On 14th June 2017, the appalling events of Grenfell left 72 people dead and many homeless and without loved ones.

Following the Grenfell enquiry, at least six and possibly as many as 13 high-rise flats were identified as having problems with cladding.

The Labour Party has suggested that around 11 million people are currently living in buildings with unsafe cladding.

Housing Minister Chris Pincher has said the government would announce a financial solution “very shortly.”