A upholstery victim has revealed she could be out of business in the next 18 months, even if the government pays her repair bill.
Charlotte Meehan, 33, said owners of flats in her East London block were ‘bled dry’ by the skyrocketing cost of interim fire safety measures being taken as they waited for the clean-up work to begin.
Those interim measures had so far led to bills of nearly £500,000 to residents for a wake-up in the Bow development, she said.
They are levied on top of the standard service charge and she also fears that there will be a heavy bill for other fire defects not covered by the cladding and covered by government aid.
Charlotte Meehan, 33, (pictured) said owners of flats in her East London block were ‘bled dry’ by the rising cost of temporary fire safety measures
Ms Meehan warned that she – and many others like her, including her husband with whom she bought the flat – will face bankruptcy in the coming months, despite the housing secretary’s announcement this week.
Michael Gove, the Undersecretary of State for Levelling, Housing and Communities, said tenant farmers were “trapped” and it was time to protect them and “make the industry pay.”
He announced that tenants living in blocks less than 18m – including Mrs. Meehan’s 15m block – will not have to pay their cladding repair bills. Previously, only those who lived in buildings above 18 meters had access to the Fire Safety Fund.
He said: ‘We will scrap loan and long-term debt proposals for leaseholders in mid-rise buildings and provide a guarantee that no leaseholder living in his own flat will pay a cent to repair dangerous cladding.’
It’s good news for affected leaseholders who have faced financially crippling bills for remediation works, often running into the hundreds of thousands of pounds.
However, the current reality for many of these condo owners is that they still face huge bills to cover interim fire measures such as vigils.
Mr Gove’s announcement this week was welcomed by Ms Meehan and her husband, but she said soaring service charges were already taking their toll.
Their service charge covers the cost of an awake watch, which she claims has already cost her 96-unit development in East London over the past 18 months almost £500,000.
The couple bought the one-bedroom flat in 2016 for £362,000, and have already seen costs run into the thousands of pounds – and that’s before the refurbishment costs have even materialized.
Other developments affected by the upholstery crisis are also seeing their insurance costs rise.
A waking holding bill for the building’s residents of £293,500 a year, including VAT, has resulted in costs of around £490,000 over the past 20 months.
Exclusive to MailOnline Property, Ms Meehan said: “I’m cautiously optimistic about Gove’s announcement as it at least gets us into the conversation, I’m still not sure if it goes far enough to force the developers to pay.”
“We want the full remediation costs, as well as the historical, current and future costs for security measures that have been taken while we wait for them to be reinstated.
“Our argument has always been that we are a building connected to a block of more than 18 meters.
‘By renovating the part of the building above 18 meters and leaving the rest below 18 meters, the fire spread is still considerable.’
But she added: “There are some key elements missing from Gove’s announcement, including other fire safety flaws beyond the cladding that have not been included. Two thirds of our bill would be for repairs of fire defects outside the cladding. It is a concern that leaseholders may still have to pay for this.’
“Another is that we are being bled out. I haven’t seen cleaners in our common areas in months. You can imagine what it looks like. It’s ten years old anyway and covered in graffiti. It is in a pitiful state of disrepair.
“What happens to people like us who run out of money to do normal repairs because it’s all on our guard?
Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, cladding concerns have become a national issue
She suggested that the development’s £500,000 watch-keeping account has left the reserve funds ‘decimated’.
She explains: ‘These interim costs are excessive and are now leading to bankruptcies. Gove isn’t looking at that and that’s my big concern.
“Our service charges doubled last year and yet our salaries are not, so we can’t afford them. We will have nothing more.
These interim costs are excessive and are now leading to bankruptcies. Gove doesn’t look at that and that’s my big concern
“Not only have service charges risen to cover the cost of these additional fire safety measures while we wait to see if we are remediated, service charges are also rising as the reserve funds have been used and nothing has happened. pay for normal daily maintenance.
‘The government must look at all aspects that have affected leaseholders as a result of the fire safety construction crisis.
“We have some savings, but it’s only a little bit of money to cover something when our kettle is packed or to help us start a family.
“We wouldn’t be able to pay if we got an unexpected £10,000 service charge, and I don’t know how they expect us to get all that money.”
The costs of its remediation work are in addition to the current service costs. Fire safety measures beyond cladding systems, such as combustible insulation or missing cavity barriers, are unlikely to be covered by Gove’s latest funding announcement.
The awake watch in its development has cost £244,608 a year plus VAT to date, a total of £293,500, and has been in use for 20 months.
Ms Meehan said: ‘People already have money and are even going bankrupt because of interim measures.
‘Due to the interim safety measures, people are going bankrupt, not just the remediation costs. We want you to feel safe in your home, but we cannot relieve ourselves of this financial burden. We have been forced to be here through no fault of our own and it is torture.’