Cladding scandal: Homeowners ‘stuck’ as service charges rise

Orchard Village

Homeowners of flats on the Orchard Village Estate in Rainham say they feel "stuck" in properties they are unable to sell due to the cladding covering the building's exterior. - Credit: Archant

A housing association has denied accusations it is hiking maintenance fees to pay for new fire safety equipment while flammable cladding remains on a Rainham block of flats. 

Adina Genz, 32, Nicola Mascarenhas, 28, and 32-year-old Kate, who would prefer to only use her first name, all own flats in the Greengage Court block on the Orchard Village Estate.

Their service charge has risen by an average of around £133 a year since a new fire alarm system - which was required due to the flammable cladding covering the exterior of the building - was put in. 

Clarion says the increased charges are not linked to the new system, but instead "maintenance costs for the existing fire safety equipment", such as emergency lighting. 

Kate saw her annual September bill, which was estimated to cost around £13, rise by £133.39 while Adina's rose by £133.45 and Nicola's by £130. 

Having purchased her property in September 2015, before the Grenfell Tower tragedy highlighted issues with cladding, Kate said: “It is ruthless and we shouldn’t be paying for it."

Kate said she is unable to sell her property due to the cladding, which is an issue “limiting the lives of people who live here”.  

Adina

Adina Genz, 32, said the rising maintenance charges are making her property unaffordable. - Credit: Adina Genz

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Adina, who also bought her property in 2015, said Clarion confirmed it would remove the building’s cladding in a recent meeting.  

She said: “It is supposed to be affordable housing and it is turning unaffordable.”  

Clarion’s spokesperson said it is “not in a position” to confirm when the re-cladding will begin.

Nicola said: “We can’t put our property on the market as they still haven’t removed the cladding and I feel I am stuck here." 

A spokesperson from Clarion said: "Residents will not be charged for the new alarm system.

"What residents are seeing in their service charges are the maintenance costs for the existing fire safety equipment in the block that they must pay a contribution towards, for example the emergency lighting.

"Residents’ service charges will vary in line with the size of their property.

“We are not in a position to confirm when the re-cladding programme will begin yet but we will update residents as soon as we are able to.”

This follows the estate’s ongoing cladding scandal and its recent issue with false fire alarms, which saw alarms sound five times in 48 hours.

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