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'Cladding disgrace' needs to be resolved, says UK letting firm

Homeowners must be helped out of the cladding crisis as insurance premiums soar, according to Apropos.

The firm believes that the continuing slow response from government to the plight of thousands of homeowners unwittingly stuck in their homes with dangerous cladding must be resolved this year.

Individuals trapped by potential cladding issues are finding that insurance premiums are soaring, with some people quoting increases of more than 1,000% to cover properties that were only recently sold to them as safe and secure yet are now unsaleable liabilities.


With the added insurance prices – often with the additional cost of funding 24-hour fire patrols which can cost between £12,000 and £45,000 per week – and the inability to sell their homes, many homeowners are at a loss.

David Alexander, joint chief executive officer of Apropos, says the situation is completely unacceptable. “With enormous insurance premiums and the cost of fire patrols many of these individuals, who bought their homes in good faith a relatively short time ago, are now facing open-ended bills, with a property they are unable to sell, and complete uncertainty about when their nightmare will end.”

The original government investigation looked at buildings with similar cladding to Grenfell Tower and initiated repairs. However, last January the government enormously extended the remit of the safety inspections to include all buildings over 11 metres with a combustible cladding system.

The result is that it is now estimated that there are at least 839,000 leasehold flats and 58,000 apartment blocks with potentially unsafe cladding.

Following the Grenfell Tower tragedy, there were only a few thousand properties requiring inspection to obtain the fire safety certificate known as an EWS1 form, so the pool of a few hundred qualified assessors who could sign off properties should have been able to check homes and sign them off as safe in a relatively short period of time.

Now with nearly one million homes deemed to be at risk, Alexander predicts the required inspections will take years, leaving thousands of people trapped in their homes paying substantial fees in insurance and fire patrol costs.

He continues: “The extension of the remit of the investigation by the MHCLG sounds like a positive move but has ended up asking more questions than it answers without enough suitably trained personnel to adequately resolve this issue.”

“The problems related to Grenfell should have been resolved first and then, where necessary, extend the investigation to look at other claddings and other building heights. By lumping everything together the government have enormously delayed resolving this issue for a much larger number of people who cannot be expected to foot these bills and live with this situation for a prolonged period of time. They need this to be resolved.”

Last September, a report by the parliamentary housing committee stated:

“Progress has been unacceptably slow. The Department (MHCLG) has missed its target badly for Grenfell-style cladding to be removed from all high-rise blocks by June 2020, other than in a few exceptional cases. The Department’s new target is for works on the remaining high-rise blocks to be completed by the end of 2021. It is imperative that the new deadline be met.”

“Most residents in blocks with dangerous cladding face exorbitant costs of funding interim safety measures (such as ‘waking watches’) while waiting for the cladding to be removed. Leaseholders have been trapped in this situation, unable to sell their flats which are worth nothing. This accentuates the urgent need for the replacement of dangerous cladding to be accelerated.”

“A lack of skills, capacity, and access to insurance is hampering efforts to improve or simply assure the structural safety of apartment blocks, and thereby to restore the confidence of buyers and mortgage lenders in sales of flats across the country. Leaseholders are in limbo and facing huge bills because of a system-wide failure to protect purchasers.”

Alexander says that while the government may well argue that resolving the cladding issue has been hampered by the pandemic, it is clear there were serious issues with the system prior to March 2020.

“The government needs to support residents facing escalating insurance premiums, and fire patrol costs at the same time ensuring that inspections can be carried out rapidly to reassure lenders so that these individuals can get their lives back,” he explains.

“At the moment everyone in a property with suspect cladding is living in limbo with little hope of resolution. They cannot be ignored fearing for their lives while their finances are being steadily eroded.”

Poll: Should the government be doing more to resolve the cladding crisis?


  • icon

    The biggest mistake was to bring in vast numbers of National standards. Building should have been left with local authorities which would have resulted in local problems and local cost centres. That's probably not a useful comment but my guess is that many authorities would only have built with in their own local knowledge and experience. Out in the country you might have a bunch of farmers who would well know what can happen when you build a large flammable building. They would also know what was dangerous because they are used to large bonfires. In a town experienced planners will well know what happens when you group too many people together in crappy cheap houses.

  • Algarve  Investor

    Grenfell was a national scandal which zoned in deep on the UK's in-built inequality. The fact that many buildings still have unsafe cladding nearly four years after Grenfell is, as the article says, an absolute disgrace and should be a source of national shame.

    There should have been immediate action taken after Grenfell to remove or retrofit dangerous cladding. How hard can it be?

    I appreciate that it's costly and logistically difficult, but the lack of planning, support and communication is shocking. Who's in charge? What are Pincher and Jenrick doing to fix the problem? How high up is it in their in-trays? It should be at the very top, with lives literally on the line if the worst were to happen.

    It's criminally negligent that this hasn't changed. Asking people to shell out thousands of pounds a month to pay for 24-hour fire patrols is just an absolute farce. How would you sleep comfortably at night with that on your mind?! Sort it out, government and development companies.


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