What is the Cladding Scandal?

There are 1.5 million leaseholders trapped in a scandal, not of their own making. The Cladding Scandal or #EndOurCladdingScandal is about the potential ruin both financially and in the health of people, families and their children by the construction industry's failure to build safely and well in new build leasehold properties. The freeholders, including housing associations, are also complicit in passing the blame onto others while maintaining that leaseholders will have to pay. I know that members of the G15 are involved in talks with the Conservative Government to offer 'affordable loans' to leaseholders to repay the remedial costs. These bills could be over £70,000. In Manchester, some leaseholders face bills of £115,000 to fix work not done by the freeholder of the building. This is more than a scandal. It is a human tragedy that the UK Government is failing to address. Why is that? Maybe it is because the Conservative Party is funded by construction companies.


There is something more fundamental going on to treat ordinary people in this way. We can speculate, but what can we do about it? Firstly, we need to make housing associations understand that to put the costs on leaseholders is unacceptable and unfair. More on this shortly. Secondly, we need to make a fundamental change to leasehold; after all, it is a feudal system. Thirdly, the Labour Party in Parliament needs to make it clear, that every leaseholder who goes bankrupt or is given a huge bill will have the right to redress financially when the Labour Party gets into power. I fear that there will be many who cannot take it anymore and take their own lives by then. Yes, it is that serious.


Housing associations are hiding behind their charitable status to say that they have to claim the costs of remedial work from leaseholders. We’ve all seen the pay of housing association executives increase and the profits - they call them surpluses - enter the hundreds of millions of pounds. Yet, how can these executives really understand what it is like for a leaseholder? Their residents sink their life savings into a new build flat. A shared owner scrapes together a small deposit to get on the housing ladder to escape the private rented sector's insecurity. Then despite buying in good faith, all leaseholders become trapped in a potentially unsafe home, then face the costs of making it safe through no fault of their own. This is all while the construction industry sails off with huge profits, donating to the Tory Party and those sending out. Section 20 notices go back to the comfort of freehold at night.


Then there is the matter of waking watches. These are forced on leaseholders and tenants often at a high cost. They should only be used as a last resort, but the market for such provision is lucrative and is being abused. Of course, to the freeholders, they can make deals with these companies safe in the knowledge that they don't have to pay for them. All costs are usually passed onto leaseholders


So, there is no way to sell as all flats with cladding - even if brick - are affected, whether they are over 18 metres or not. The material behind the cladding and balconies need to be checked to make sure it is safe. Mortgage lenders refuse to agree to mortgages until building safety is confirmed using an EWS1 form (even though there is now an EWS1 B2 form!). Buildings under 18 metres do not need an EWS1 certificate, but mortgage lenders are insisting on it. So, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) - who developed the EWS1 certificate, does not respond to worried leaseholders.


Freeholders, government and housing associations tell people that it is unfortunate, but they are powerless all blaming the industry they failed to regulate or supervise. If you lose your job, a member of the family dies, you are severely overcrowded, your relationship breaks-up, or you need to move for your job, there is nothing anyone can do. In other words "tough!".


Hope is all that many have, and that is fading fast. Leaseholders are already declaring bankruptcy. Is this the legacy that the government, freeholders and housing associations want to leave in the annuls of history?


If you are trapped in this unacceptable situation, then the leading campaign group is the UK Cladding Action Group. Their details are below.



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© 2020 Paul Bell. All views are my own, unless otherwise stated