'I can't afford £6k bill for six more months of cladding hell... I'm scared I'll go bankrupt'

Claire Hamblion owns a flat in Cardinal Lofts in Ipswich and is concerned about the news that the bu

Claire Hamblion owns a flat in Cardinal Lofts in Ipswich - Credit: Archant

Furious flat owners on the Waterfront say they are facing a “shocking” half-yearly bill of more than £6,500 per apartment - after fire engineers uncovered major safety problems in 2020.

Cardinal Lofts leaseholder Claire Hamblion, from Ipswich, has shared her dismay at an invoice she received on Friday from Principle Estate Management - which took over from former agents Block Management UK Ltd earlier this year.

The bill increased her share of the building’s service charge - typically used to maintain communal areas - from £900 for the second half of 2020 to just over £6,500 for the same period this year.

A safety budget for cladding on the upper floors and internal fire defects makes up the lion’s share of the cost, with leaseholders billed £5,403.

Claire Hamblion owns a flat in Cardinal Lofts in Ipswich and is concerned about the news that the bu

The £6,500 bill is a half-yearly charge, according to Ms Hamblion's invoice - Credit: Archant

“I just can’t afford it,” said Ms Hamblion. “And there are thousands of people in this hideous situation. It’s out of control.

“It's billed by flat - there are 80 flats here on Cardinal, if you’re in a two-bed you’ll unfortunately pay more as it’s based on square footage.

"So you can multiply my number by 80 to a yearly total of almost £1million, it’s absolutely insane.

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“We don’t know how much of it we’re expected to pay, and we don’t know when it’s going to end - it’s the tip of the iceberg. No work has even started here yet.”

Cardinal Lofts, Ipswich Picture: SARAH LUCY BROWN

Fire safety problems were uncovered at Cardinal Lofts, in College Street, last November - Credit: Archant

Ms Hamblion claimed the half-yearly service charge billed to the complex’s 80 flats landed without warning.

There are thousands of people in Ipswich facing similar situations, as revealed by this newspaper earlier this year - with homes they splashed hard-earned savings on now worth £0.

“It’s like nailing jelly to a wall to find out what’s going on,” Ms Hamblion added.

“I just feel completely helpless. If this carries on, I could end up bankrupt, or even homeless."

Frustrated residents from Cardinal Lofts in Ipswich are faced with a large bill for fire marshals. P

Frustrated residents from Cardinal Lofts in Ipswich. Pictured are Claire Hamblion (left), Craig Bennett and Julianne Woor, and Sarah Cushion - Credit: ARCHANT/JULIANNE WOOR/SARAH CUSHION

The landlord of Cardinal Lofts, which was put under ‘waking watch’ last November with fire marshals patrolling 24/7, is named in Ms Hamblion’s invoice as Scottish-based firm Grey GR Limited Partnership.

It is a Scottish-based firm of which the Railways Pension Trustee Company Ltd is listed on Companies House as having ‘significant control’ through the right to surplus assets - of 75% or more.

Ms Hamblion’s letter asks residents to send notices to Residents Quarter Limited, on behalf of Grey GR - they have been contacted for a response.

Bosses at Principle Estates, which sent the invoice, declined to comment on the situation.

Claire Hamblion and Alex Dickin, of the Ipswich Cladiators group, set up to fight cladding scandal o

There are thousands of Ipswich residents with homes now worth £0 due to fire safety defects - Credit: CHARLOTTE BOND

It is understood the Government will pay for Cardinal Lofts’ fire alarm installation, but there is no word yet on whether it will receive Building Safety Fund cash.

The Government has pledged £5bn to fund the cost of replacing unsafe cladding for all leaseholders in blocks above 18 metres (six storeys) in England.

- Read more coverage of the cladding scandal from this newspaper's investigations team