Chapel Court leaseholders unconvinced by government's cladding promises

Chapel Court resident Reece Lipman

Chapel Court resident Reece Lipman - Credit: Daniel Gayne

Occupants of potentially flammable flats in Romford say the government’s new leaseholder protections do not go far enough. 

The government announced that leaseholders in buildings between 11m and 18m would be protected from the cost of repairing cladding which has been deemed dangerous. 

While welcomed by the borough’s MPs, Manu Dihiya, resident of Romford's Chapel Court, said there were still “lots of question marks”. 

The 45-year-old NHS worker, who moved into the development with her husband and son when it was newly built in 2014, said it was unclear whether the policy just covered cladding, or other defects such as fire breaks and compartmentalisation flaws. 

Chapel Court resident Manu Dihiya

Chapel Court resident Manu Dihiya - Credit: Daniel Gayne

She was also concerned about how her freeholder – Swan Housing Association – fit into an announcement which spoke primarily of pursuing private developers. 

Reece Lipman, 32, has also lived in the block since 2014 and become prominent in the leaseholders’ campaign. 

He said he was concerned the government’s new approach would result in legal battles lasting as long as a decade. 

That is too long for families like Manu’s, who had hoped to leave next year to get their son into a better school. 

In the meantime, Chapel Court residents don’t even know the extent of the problem – Swan Housing Association has refused to share details from technical reports on the building.

Most Read

“The only way this gets fixed is the government have to put up the money and then work out how to get it back later,” said Reece, urging the government to underwrite the mortgages on affected properties. 

Reece Lipman became involved in organising leaseholders after discovering his flat in Chapel Court was unsaleable.

Reece Lipman became involved in organising leaseholders after discovering his flat in Chapel Court was unsaleable. - Credit: Daniel Gayne

He said: “If the government thinks that the fire is so unlikely to happen, surely that’s no loss to them, the banks feel safe in their risk assessments, and it solves the time problem.

"The government can spend however many years they want trying to work out how to make it safe.” 

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said it was “considering a range of anti-avoidance measures” and “nothing is off the table” when it came to pursuing companies at fault for the cladding crisis. 

“We will also be looking to have separate discussions with social housing providers about the measures necessary to protect their leaseholders,” they said. 

A Swan spokesperson said the housing association welcomed the government’s new policy but is awaiting “further clarification” from government on its implementation.