Disappointment turns to anger for leaseholders forced to foot cladding bill
- Credit: Charlotte Bond
Disappointment has turned to anger for Ipswich leaseholders now forced to foot the bill for unsafe cladding surrounding their homes.
The disappointment comes after attempts to amend the Fire Safety Bill by the House of Lords and a group of rebel Conservative MPs – including Ipswich MP Tom Hunt – finally failed on Wednesday night.
The bill was introduced in response to the Grenfell Tower Fire in 2017, which led to the death of 72 people.
Amendments to the bill had been debated between the two houses for several months, before the Lords voted against reinserting the changes designed to protect leaseholders from footing the bill for remedial works on buildings plagued by dangerous cladding and fire safety defects.
The government announced a £3.5billion package to protect leaseholders in high-rise blocks in England earlier this year, although opponents argue it will not cover the costs on buildings between 11 and 18 metres high.
There are 17 buildings in Suffolk known to be affected by unsafe cladding.
One of those affected, Alex Dickin, said he could now face an invoice of more than £10,000 for remedial work on the flat he bought five years ago – which is currently subject to a 24-hour waking watch.
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Mr Dickin, of the Ipswich Cladiators campaigning group, said: "The Fire Safety Bill as it is effectively names every leaseholder financially responsible for any fire safety related costs.
"There were murmurs that the Lords could be backing down – there are aspects of the bill that are agreed with and with parliament set to close, it was a case of not losing out on everything.
"We are definitely disappointed and those emotions are certainly now starting to turn to anger. We have been very clear to the government that if this bill doesn't change, it will change our lives.
"This isn't an inconvenience like a small rise in council tax, this is a circumstance where you go from a service charge to facing a bill in the tens of thousands.
"My property is valued at zero pounds. No mortgage lender would lend for a flat with fire safety defects. Some people are so desperate that they're looking at going to auction and sell at a significantly reduced price.
"The government must be truly embarrassed by the position it has come to."
Ipswich MP Tom Hunt said he shares the disappointment of the cladiators, and will continue to support them in the future.
Mr Dickin added the Ipswich Cladiators will continue to campaign, with an event planned on the Cornhill on May 22.