Residents in block with Grenfell cladding face £2m bill for replacement panels
Residents in a privately-owned high-rise block with the same cladding that was used on Grenfell Tower may be forced to pay millions for replacement panels to be installed.
Leaseholders at Citiscape in Croydon, south London, face a bill of up to £2 million to remove and replace the aluminium composite material (ACM) panels, thought to have fuelled the spread of the Grenfell Tower fire.
The building is one of 228 across the country which failed fire safety tests carried out by the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) in the weeks after the blaze, in which 71 people died.
First Port Property Services, the building's property manager, has written to residents twice, outlining that cost will likely be covered through service charges, which would be borne collectively by leaseholders.
In November they advised residents that the cost of replacing the unsafe cladding was about £500,000, before revising the estimate to between £1.8 and £2 million last Tuesday.
In the latest letter they said: "We know that this work and the costs are unwelcome. However, as your property manager, our first priority has to be your safety."
With 95 flats affected, each household's share could be between approximately £13,300 and £31,300, to be paid in instalments from March 1.
In addition, the cost of fire marshals, which have been in place since June and will need to remain until cladding work is completed, may bump up the costs by about £300,000 per year.
A hearing at a first-tier property tribunal will take place on February 6 to determine who should foot the bill.
Local MP Steve Reed raised concerns last year with Communities Secretary Sajid Javid.
He replied by letter: "In the private sector, as in the social sector, it is for the responsible person to take the necessary steps to ensure the safety of residents.
"In some cases these costs will fall naturally to the freeholder, landlord, or those acting on their behalf.
"Where they do not I urge those in the private sector with responsibility for resident safety to follow the lead from the social sector and private companies already doing the right thing, and not attempt to pass on costs to leaseholders."
He said all local authorities and housing associations in discussion with the department were choosing not to pass the cost on, as were some private companies.
Alexandra Blanc, 37, who bought her flat in 2014, said: "This situation has become out of control.
"I received a letter telling me I have to pay more than I earn in one year salary in six weeks for something I am not even responsible for.
"I'm very worried about the prospect of losing my flat. I have contacted estate agents to try and sell it but they told me this flat will never sell under those circumstances.
"My equity has also become negative since this debacle."
Richard, the father of a 95-year-old resident, said: "With the demands for the horrendous costs associated with the replacement of the cladding and firewatch, it is unreasonable to make such a demand from a pensioner receiving only the state pension, being barely sufficient to cover the winter bills and his daily upkeep."