A cladding victim has revealed that she faces possible bankruptcy in the next 18 months even if the Government pays for her repair bill.
Charlotte Meehan, 33, said owners of flats in her block in East London were being ‘bled dry’ by the soaring cost of interim fire safety measures that have been in place while they were waiting for remediation works to begin.
Those interim measures had so far racked up bills of nearly £500,000 for residents for a waking watch at the Bow development, she said.
They are being levied on top of the standard service charge and she is also worried that a huge bill may arrive for other fire defects that are not cladding and covered by any Government help.
Charlotte Meehan, 33, (pictured) said owners of flats in her block in East London were being ‘bled dry’ by the soaring cost of interim fire safety measures
Mrs Meehan issued the warning that she – and many others like her, including her husband who she bought the flat with – face bankruptcy in the months ahead, despite welcoming the housing secretary’s announcement this week.
Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said that leaseholders were ‘trapped’ and that it was time to protect them and make ‘industry pay’.
He announced that leaseholders living in blocks under 18m – including Mrs Meehan’s block at 15m – would not have to pay their cladding repair bills. Only those living in buildings above 18 metres had previously access to the Fire Safety Fund.
He said: ‘We will scrap proposals for loans and long-term debt for leaseholders in medium-rise buildings and give a guarantee that no leaseholder living in their own flat will pay a penny to fix dangerous cladding.’
It is welcome news for affected leaseholders who faced financially crippling bills for remediation works, often running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.
However, the current reality for many of these flat owners is that they still face massive bills to cover interim fire measures such as waking watches.
Mr Gove’s announcement this week was welcomed by Mrs Meehan and her husband, but she said that soaring service charges were already beginning to take their toll.
Their service charges cover the cost of a waking watch, which she claimed has already cost her development of 96 units in East London almost £500,000 for the last 18 months.
The couple bought the one-bedroom flat in 2016 for £362,000, and has seen costs already run into thousands of pounds – and that’s even before the cost of the remediation works.
Other developments affected by the cladding crisis are also seeing their insurance costs soar.
A waking watch bill for the building’s residents running at £293,500 per year, including VAT, has led to charges of about £490,000 over the past 20 months.
Speaking exclusively to MailOnline Property, Mrs Meehan said: ‘I am cautiously optimistic about Gove’s announcement as it at least brings us into the conversation, I still don’t know if it goes far enough to force the developers to pay.’
‘We want full remediation costs, as well as those historic, present and future costs for safety measures put in place while we wait for them to remediate.
‘Our argument has always been that we are a connected building to a block that is more than 18 metres.
‘Remediating the section of the building that is above 18 metres and leaving the rest that is under 18 metres means the spread of fire is still significant.’
But she added: ‘There are some key elements missing from Gove’s announcement, including other fire safety defects outside of cladding not being included. Two thirds of our bill would be for fire defect repairs outside of cladding. It is a concern that leaseholders may still have to pay for those.’
‘Another is that we are being bled dry. I have not seen any cleaners in our communal areas for months. You can imagine what it looks like. It is ten years old anyway and is covered in graffiti. It is in a dire state of disrepair.
‘What happens to people like us who have no money left to do normal repairs as it has all gone our waking watch?
Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, concerns about cladding have become a national issue
She suggested that the development’s £500,000 waking watch bill has left its reserve funds ‘decimated’.
She went on to explain: ‘These interim costs are extortionate and are bankrupting people now. Gove is not looking at those and that is my big concern.
‘Our service charges doubled last year and yet our salaries haven’t, so we can’t afford to pay them. We won’t have anything left.
These interim costs are extortionate and are bankrupting people now. Gove is not looking at those and that is my big concern
‘Not only have we got service charges rising to cover the cost of these extra fire safety measures while we wait to see if we are going to be remediated, the service charges are also rising as the reserve funds have been used and there is nothing to pay for normal everyday maintenance work.
‘The Government needs to look at all aspects that have affected leaseholders as a result of the fire safety building crisis.
‘We have some savings but it is only a little bit of money to cover something like if our boiler packed up or to help us start a family.
‘We would not be able to pay should we receive an unexpected £10,000 service charge bill, and I don’t know how they expect us to come up with all this money.’
The cost of her remediation works are on top of any current service charge bills. Any fire safety measures outside of cladding systems, such as combustible insulation or missing cavity barriers, are unlikely to be covered by Gove’s latest funding announcement.
The waking watch at her development has so far cost £244,608 a year plus VAT, a total of £293,500, and has been in place for 20 months.
Mrs Meehan said: ‘People are already out of pocket and even going bankrupt just due to interim measures.
‘The interim safety measures are bankrupting people, not just the remediation costs. You are meant to feel safe in your home but we can’t relieve ourselves of this financial burden. We have been forced to be here through no fault of our own and it is torture.’