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Sheffield residents put in "intolerable" position over dangerous cladding

Leaseholders are expecting bills of tens of thousands of pounds to replace dangerous cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower.

Photo for Now Then

Adam Brooks outside Daisy Spring Works.

Adam Brooks.

Residents of at least four apartment blocks in Sheffield are facing huge bills from property management companies to make the buildings they live in fire-safe.

Leaseholders at Daisy Spring Works on Shalesmoor, Mandale House off Broad Lane, Wicker Riverside off Derek Dooley Way, and Metis Tower on Scotland Street have formed the Sheffield Cladding Action Group in response to building management companies passing on thousands of pounds in costs.

The government changed the regulations following the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, but leaseholders across the country have found that the cost of making their properties safe has fallen to them.

The UK-wide group End Our Cladding Scandal have labelled the situation "a clear imbalance of justice", and called on the government to foot the bill.

Residents at Daisy Spring Works say they have received a collective bill totalling £80,000 for two people to carry out 24/7 patrols of the building to ensure fire safety, a practice known as ‘waking watch’.

They have also been charged £9,000 to reconfigure fire alarms and £147,499 for work to prevent fire spreading from a residence to common areas like stairs and hallways.

Further phases of ‘remediation’ and ‘compartmentation’, to ensure fire cannot spread from one flat to another, are expected soon and will also be charged to leaseholders.

Adam Brooks, who bought his flat at Daisy Spring Works in 2017, says that a fire survey conducted in 2018 found that there were no ‘fire stoppage’ measures in the building.

The survey estimated that a fire could spread through the building within 15 minutes, falling below the legal limit of 60 minutes.

He says this prompted owner Avon Ground Rents, which managed the building through Y&Y Management, to begin the waking watches, because the alternative was for all residents to immediately evacuate the building.

“Not only am I living in an unsafe flat, which was sold to me as safe, I’m also having to foot the charges," he told Now Then.

The situation has left leaseholders across Sheffield unable to sell or remortgage their flats, and residents say they feel "trapped" in unsafe homes.

The government have announced a £600 million fund to replace cladding on buildings like Metis Tower, which has similar ACM cladding to that on Grenfell Tower.

They've also announced a further £1 billion Building Safety Fund for non-ACM cladding, like on Daisy Spring Works. But campaigners say the money is only being made available on a first-come-first-served basis, and isn't anywhere near enough.

2,784 buildings have applied for the fund, which even the government themselves say will only cover a third of the buildings that need recladding. They estimate the total cost will be £3-3.5 billion.

"We're in the queue for that," said Brooks. "It's first-come-first-served basis, and once the money runs out apparently everyone else has to fund it themselves."

If the building isn't allocated any money from the fund, residents believe they could each be charged tens of thousands of pounds to make the exterior safe.

Over 700,000 people in the UK live in homes with dangerous cladding, and a number of MPs have called on ministers to implement End Our Cladding Scandal's recommendations.

“The government must fulfil its responsibilities to those caught in the cladding scandal," Sheffield Central MP Paul Blomfield told Now Then.

"It is completely wrong that leaseholders are facing huge costs to remedy mistakes that are not of their making. Government inaction has put leaseholders in an intolerable position; it must not continue.”

In a statement sent to Now Then, a spokesperson for Y&Y Management said that neither they or Avon Ground Rents were involved in the construction of Daisy Spring Works, and said that they have applied to the Building Safety Fund.

“It is disappointing the government has not done more to financially protect us all during this period of uncertainty,” they said.

“Until we receive a response from the government’s fund, we all find ourselves in this “intolerable situation” of not knowing who is responsible for the significant costs of replacing the cladding. The whole residential property sector – tenants, landlords, property managers, housebuilders and insurers – needs clear advice and funding from government.”

by Sam Walby (he/him), Sam Gregory (he/him)

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