Flat owner feels ‘trapped’ in £180K apartment after being hit with £100K bill for cladding repairs

A flat owner says she feels ‘trapped’ in a fire hazard apartment after being hit with a whopping £100,000 bill for cladding repairs.

Emilie Boswell, 26, bought her dream waterfront property for £180,000 in May 2018 and a fire safety report concluded there were ‘no obvious signs of cladding’.

But a year later, residents in the apartment block in the Leeds Dock area of West Yorkshire were told they needed round-the-clock fire patrols.

Now Ms Boswell has been hit with a bill of £101,828 for repairs that are needed to bring her flat up to standard.

Leaseholders in the block, which holds 181 flats, hoped to utilise the government’s Building Safety Fund, but only some of the materials are eligible for funding.

The application for grants cannot proceed until the freeholder signs a contract, which it hasn’t yet done.

In the aftermath of the Grenfell tragedy, the Government issued guidance stating buildings of all heights required an EWS1 form proving they did not pose a fire risk. 

The move raised the number of flats caught out by the rules from 307,000 to 1.27million. 

But in a surprise U-turn earlier this year, ministers said that those in flat blocks less than 18m tall would no longer need a fire safety certificate to sell their homes.  

Emilie Boswell (pictured on the day she moved into her apartment), 26, bought her dream waterfront property for £180,000 in May 2018 and a fire safety report concluded there were ‘no obvious signs of cladding’

Emilie said: ‘I thought I was buying the dream apartment, in the city centre, overlooking the water.

‘To be told it’s so dangerous we have to have people patrol the building 24/7 to look for any signs of fire is scary.

‘It’s caused really bad anxiety. It’s had an enormous impact on my mental health.

‘I can’t plan anything, I don’t want to stay here, but I won’t be able to sell the flat for years. I feel trapped.

‘Leaseholders have done nothing wrong and we’re the ones paying the price. It’s horrendous.’

Emilie thought she was buying her dream apartment in May 2018, when she got the keys to the plush flat in Leeds city centre.

As it was less than a year after the Grenfell tragedy, she ordered a fire safety report which found no obvious use of cladding.

But in November 2019, the block’s management company told Emilie the building actually had cladding at the top of the building.

It also had timber cladding and a white render system which were found to be flammable.

A 24-hour patrol, whose job it was to look out for any signs of fire, was deemed necessary – at a cost of £67 per month to residents.

That patrol in August this year when the government funded a fire alarm in the building, which relieved Emilie of that cost.

But just weeks later she was hit with the whopping repairs bill which needs to be agreed before any work can go ahead.

Ms Boswell (above) said: 'I won't be able to sell the flat for years. I feel trapped. Leaseholders have done nothing wrong and we're the ones paying the price. It's horrendous'

Ms Boswell (above) said: ‘I won’t be able to sell the flat for years. I feel trapped. Leaseholders have done nothing wrong and we’re the ones paying the price. It’s horrendous’

While the apartment is eligible for some funding, the government’s £5bn Building Safety Fund does not cover non-cladding fire safety issues meaning Emilie may need to stump up a large chunk.

She said: ‘They sent a letter saying you will be getting a bill but you don’t have to settle this yet.

‘But on the bill, it doesn’t say anything about that. I’m just waiting to hear how much of that £101,000 we need to pay.

‘We have timber balconies which the government says aren’t eligible for the building safety fund because they’re not part of the exterior of the building.

‘We’ve also got terracotta tiles and brickwork that are missing fire breaks, but because they themselves are not flammable, they’re not eligible for the fund.

‘That bill is like a noose around my back. I don’t know how much I’m going to need to pay of it.’

Leaseholders in the apartment block submitted their application for funding more than a year ago, but are still desperately seeking answers.

Emilie added: ‘It’s terrifying, you’re essentially living in a firetrap. And then with lockdown and working from home, we’ve been in these flats all the way through.

‘Every night before I go to bed I do so many checks to make sure all my electrical equipment is turned off.

‘I’m so scared of the building catching fire, it’s the last thing I think of every night.’

In 2019, residents in the apartment block in the Leeds Dock area (file photo, above) of West Yorkshire were told they needed round-the-clock fire patrols

In 2019, residents in the apartment block in the Leeds Dock area (file photo, above) of West Yorkshire were told they needed round-the-clock fire patrols

It comes as premiums increase by up to 2,000 per cent on apartment blocks wrapped in flammable cladding, while some have had their cover pulled.

Last week, Housing Secretary Michael Gove was said to be examining whether the state could underwrite home insurance for residents as part of a renewed push to fix the crisis.

But Labour’s housing spokesman Lucy Powell said: ‘We’ve been talking about naming and shaming for four years. Unless you’ve got a big stick with that, it just doesn’t work.’

Giles Grover, of the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign, added: ‘It’s the cost of the insurance and the interim fire safety measures that will make many bankrupt before remediation bills even land. 

‘It is good [Mr Gove] is looking at solutions, but it is frustrating it has taken so long. We just want him to listen to us.’

A Government spokesman said: ‘The Secretary of State is looking afresh at our work to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect and support leaseholders.’ 

Read more at DailyMail.co.uk

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