“Our thoughts were that bricks and mortar have their issues, but they’re there forever.”
Two flats in a 16-floor block in Ipswich were supposed to be a modest investment that Phil and Jan could cash in on when they got older.
But since Grenfell, the investment has looked in jeopardy, with the potential that future expenses could cost them all the money they put into it. And with no large family behind to help, that is a real worry.
Phil and Jan know they are luckier than most. The freeholder has forward-funded remediation works so far and is looking at claiming it back. Cladding has been stripped and the building successfully compartmentalised with new fire alarms and detection systems installed.
But it’s because of these measures that service charges are rising – as well as the couple’s anxiety.
“I was worried that if there was an incident, would I be liable?” Phil asks.
“We simply want our tenants to live in a clean, safe, and efficient environment.
“We are under financial pressure. We have been let down by the developer, the inspection process, and by government.
“Government have been naïve and arrogant for allowing work to be done on buildings that is not safe, that is unacceptable.”
Jan describes how she often swings from being upset to angry.
“Government and councils are not taking inspections seriously – it is scandalous,” she says. “I cannot believe this has been allowed, I am upset and under stress with it all.
“We don’t know any information. We don’t know what is going on with our block.
“Government will have to make right any wrongdoings of developers. I’d love to see them fund it. In the end, the buck stops with them.
“Our government doesn’t seem to care about its people. Is this all that they think of us?
“There is absolutely no duty of care, I am very cross.”
Of course those people signing it off are saying it is safe – they are getting money from it. Why would they say it is dangerous?
Phil’s opinion of the government isn’t much brighter. “It seems as if all the political parties are ignoring it… why?” he asks.
“I used to be a Conservative voter, but with the cladding scandal that is ongoing, I don’t know where to go politically.
“We are a lot luckier than some in that the freeholder has forward-funded the fire-safety measures, but we are still in the dark and stressed due to money fears.
“Why should we pay when we have done nothing wrong?
“This is what we are up against, the establishment. We need to get unbiased people into government. That is what is going to bring about real law changes.”
Phil adds that serious changes need to be made to the system as a whole. “We need unbiased and thoroughly tested materials and move away from relying on people in the industry to mark their own homework,” he says.
“Of course those people signing it off are saying it is safe – they are getting money from it. Why would they say it is dangerous?
“If Grenfell had never happened, then we wouldn’t know the extent of the situation. Those that died in the fire cannot be sacrificed without action being taken.
“It should be mandatory that if a developer says ‘no’ to an inspection that the council can go after them with legal action – these people should be brought to the book.
“It was not an accident, it was a positive decision to build outside of the regulations. That is unacceptable.”
The MHCLG has been asked to respond directly to each story in the#MyCladdingStory series. Here is the department’s response:
“Resident safety remains our priority, which is why we have taken urgent action on building safety.
“We have listened to leaseholders, and the government has recently announced a £1bn fund to remediate high-rise buildings with unsafe cladding.
“There is absolutely no excuse for building owners not ensuring that residents are safe in their homes.”
In additional notes, the department added: “It is unacceptable that some residents have found themselves stuck in limbo, unable to sell their home.
“If a leaseholder needs help understanding the terms of their lease, then LEASE can help.”
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