Harold Wood leaseholders caught in the web of the ongoing cladding scandal are questioning why they face paying remediation costs – all because of the size of their blocks. 

Following the fire in Grenfell Tower in 2017, the government began undertaking testing of cladding on buildings to identify the type of aluminium composite material (ACM) used.  

One outcome of this was that, in May 2019, an ACM cladding remediation fund was announced. This meant the government would cover the costs of removing unsafe cladding from private sector residential buildings, though only for those 18 metres tall or above. 

Last year, the protection for leaseholders was extended to those living in buildings between 11 and 18m. However, the height restriction means residents in blocks under 11m still have to pay for cladding works on their homes, leaving many with costs they cannot afford. 

Among those impacted is Lisa Petty, who bought her flat in Baneberry Lodge on the Kings Park estate in 2016.

She said the threat of future costs is not only likely to cost her down the line, but that it has already prevented her being able to sell. 

Prior to the pandemic, Lisa had a buyer lined up who ended up dropping out due to the outbreak. 

Returning at a later date, they said their lender was now requesting an EWS1 form, which provides information on the fire safety of the building’s exterior. 

Lisa said the sale fell through due to her property not having such a form. A fire survey was subsequently done of the building, which Lisa said is 9m tall, in October 2020.

It deemed the block to have flammable cladding and a B2 rating was given, meaning remedial work is required.

Primula Court, which is 10.1m tall, is another block on the same estate which is also managed by Wildheart Residential Management.

The Recorder recently reported how one resident, Steve Bulkan, has received a letter notifying him of the tender process for cladding works and a consultation period.

Steve estimates he will have to pay between £3,700 and £4,000, a fee he described as “absolutely outrageous”. 

Romford Recorder: Steve Bulkan predicts residents living in his block, Primula Court, will have to pay thousands for cladding worksSteve Bulkan predicts residents living in his block, Primula Court, will have to pay thousands for cladding works (Image: Steve Bulkan)

Believing she will be asked for far more money, partially because Primula Court will have most of its cladding work paid for by its insurer due to a fire in 2019, Lisa said there is no way she can afford to fork out thousands on work she said is not her fault. 

“I can’t afford to pay my cladding bill,” she said.  

Lisa wants to see the legislation changed so blocks such as hers qualify for the government funding. 

“We just need to be protected in some way. If there was another floor in my building, I wouldn’t have these issues. It just seems like such an arbitrary number.” 

Romford Recorder: Primula Court, on the Kings Park estate, lost most of its cladding after a fire broke out in 2019Primula Court, on the Kings Park estate, lost most of its cladding after a fire broke out in 2019 (Image: Ben Lynch)

Suzy Spilling of the Non-Qualifying Leaseholders Group, a campaign group looking specifically at issues with leaseholder protections, said the situation “lays bare one of the key gaps" in the government’s approach. 

She said: “In January 2022, Michael Gove said that leaseholders are blameless and it was morally wrong that they should be asked to pay the price; however, those in buildings below the arbitrary qualifying height of 11m to receive protection have been brutally cast aside.

“Until there is a comprehensive solution in place for all buildings of all heights and all defects, the lives of the ordinary people that Mr Gove promised to protect will remain in tatters.” 

The Recorder contacted Wildheart for comment relating to the blocks it manages on the Kings Park estate, including Baneberry Lodge, but it did not respond.

A spokesperson for Wildheart previously told the Recorder, in relation to Primula Court specifically: “The freeholder and its agent share leaseholders’ frustration at the process and are focussed on resolving the position as quickly as possible. 

“In the meantime, expert advice confirms that the building is safe for occupation.” 

Julia Lopez, MP for Hornchurch and Upminster, said she recognised the receipt of consultation notices by Primula Court residents relating to the cladding work was “deeply disappointing”. 

Romford Recorder: Hornchurch and Upminster MP, Julia LopezHornchurch and Upminster MP, Julia Lopez (Image: Julia Lopez)

On her discussions with the Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC), a spokesperson said: “Julia’s enquiries with DLUHC have related to all properties in the Kings Park estate where a positive EWS1 score has not been achieved.  

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“Julia is seeking to represent broader estate-wide concerns alongside building-specific concerns with the department. 

“These enquiries have included requests for processes for the remediation requirements of sub-11m to be independently verified and, for the limited number of buildings where this is confirmed, for additional support for leaseholders.” 

Countryside said it had nothing to add when approached for comment. The DLUHC was also contacted.