Swansea high-rise leaseholders advised not to pay for fire-safety improvements

Flat owners each face demands for up to £40,000 for fire-safety works after an improvement notice is issued by Swansea council.

Meridian Quay 1

Swansea council has issued an improvement notice for £5m worth of fire-safety improvements to be carried out at Meridian Quay.

The building’s management companies said they had no choice but to “seek the monies now” as a leaseholder’s service charge while negotiating with insurers.

But Martin Scott, who is representing about 22 of the 265 leaseholders, has advised his clients not to pay.

One leaseholder has reportedly been asked to pay £17,000 immediately – with more expected next year.

Mr Scott, from law firm Walker Morris, said: “In every major city similar issues arise, whether it be with the developers, the builders, the insurers, the professionals around the scheme.

“It is a situation that cries out to be resolved by the insurers doing their job and what they said they would do in the first place.”

Meridian Quay Management Company (MQMC) and its agent, Corporate Residential Management (CRM), responded, saying they were “disappointed” that “a minority of leaseholders” had chosen to be represented by Walker Morris.

Mike Woods, who bought a one-bed flat in Meridian Quay as an investment in 2007, said: “It’s all a bit of a shock… it’s not money that I’ve got sitting around that I can just dump and pay for these repair works to be done.

“But there’s cases where there’s a lot of older people here who have retired.

“Where are they going to get this money from? It’s frightening.

“I don’t think Swansea city council for one minute would like to see a couple of hundred people being out on the street because of an enforcement notice, it doesn’t make sense to me.”

The high-rise blocks were built by Carillion, which went into liquidation last year.

The improvement notice orders internal ‘compartmentation’ improvements to ensure fire cannot easily spread from flat to flat, and external firebreak improvements that involve replacing brickwork.

A spokeswoman for MQMC and CRM said: “The management company has deferred annual service charge demands this year (normally due in February) but has been faced with no other option than to seek monies through the service charge now in order to comply with improvement notices issued by Swansea council that require remedial work to commence this month.

“Unfortunately, leaseholders across the country are facing similar problems, and the first-tier tribunals to date have concluded that re-instatement of buildings in respect of fire-safety issues is a service-charge item.”

East West Insurance Company said it was working closely with the managing agents representing the leaseholders to “address the building defects” at Meridian Quay.

“We are unable to comment on the financial figures, as costs for the required works have not yet been finalised,” said a spokesperson.

“However, we can confirm that all claims will be considered in line with the policy terms and conditions and that East West will continue to positively engage with all parties to reach a resolution of the insured leaseholder claims.”

Swansea council said it understood “necessary works” were being addressed, and it would not speculate on action it may take if the order isn’t obeyed.

In a letter to Meridian Quay leaseholders in August, CRM said it had asked the Welsh government for grant funding to help with the repairs but had been advised no funds were available.

According to the Welsh government’s building safety group, in May 2018 there were 143 high-rise residential buildings in Wales – 38 social and 105 private.

Last week, leaseholders at the Celestia development in Cardiff Bay, which has similar fire-safety defects, described an offer for a loan from developer Redrow to fund some improvements as an “insult”.

Image: J Williams/Geograph

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