Leeds cladding scandal victims fear £10,000 bills to make their homes fire safe

Leaseholders from Leeds have travelled down to Westminster today to argue nobody should have to pay the price for replacing potentially dangerous cladding on their buildings.

By Richard Beecham
Wednesday, 20th April 2022, 4:30 pm

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy in 2017, it was revealed that tower blocks across the country, some in Leeds, had been clad in potentially flammable materials.

The Government's Building Safety Bill is currently in its final stages before becoming law, and will put more responsibility for fixing Britain's cladding crisis on the shoulders of the developers who created the problem in the first place.

But the bill doesn't include the same help for those living in low rise blocks, while leaseholders could be forced to pay up to £10,000 each towards making their homes fire safe.

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MPs and campaigners want the government to go further to protect leaseholders.

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She said she has already spent £15,000 on temporary measures to help make her building fire safe, including waking watches, special alarms and a six-fold increase in buildings insurance payments.

"I am 27 months into this and I am exhausted," she said. "I will never get the time back, I don't know where it will end, I don't know what my financial future looks like because I don't know how much of a bill in excess of £100,000 I will still face.

"I can't move, I can't sell, I can't sublet. You are constantly having to fight to put the case that somebody who is innocent like me shouldn't have to pay a company who has made billions of pounds in profits."

The plans had originally offered protections only to those living in buildings 18 metres and above in height - the bill has since been amended to offer help to those living in buildings 11 metres and above.

Amendments to the bill from the House of Lords are being discussed in Parliament this evening.

Speaking outside the House of Commons today, Leeds Central MP Hilary Benn (Lab) said: "We meet here today having made real progress and that is something to celebrate, and it is only because of the efforts of all the campaigners and MPs supporting them.

"But nobody should have to pay anything, and buildings below 11 metres should be included in the scheme the government is proposing.

"We are about to go into the House of Commons so we can put pressure on the minister so we can deal with these problems once and for all."

Ms Loftus also believes the bill does not go far enough, as the bill includes a cap on contributions from the leaseholders themselves, meaning someone living in a flat could have to pay up to £10,000 each out of their own pocket.

"And this is for cladding only," she added. "Mine has six things wrong with it in terms of fire safety, and only three things would be covered by that £10,000.

"They have widened it out from what it was before - they took it down from 18 metres to 11 metres, but they are still only guaranteeing a narrow definition of cladding.

"You can't half-fix a fire risk - you either do it properly or not at all. The Government's proposals are only half fixing the problem."