Leaseholders ask for funding amid COVID-19 outbreak

Leaseholders ask for funding amid COVID-19 outbreak

A JOINT statement from cladding action groups made up of leaseholders from across the UK have called on the government to help fund interim safety measures during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Inside Housing reported on the statement from the Birmingham Leasehold Action Group, the Leeds Cladding Scandal group, Manchester Cladiators and the UK Cladding Action Group, which called on the government to ‘provide support with the cost of interim safety measures’ as the pandemic ‘mounts’. It called for government assistance with the cost of waking watches, which can cost up to £1,000 per month per flat.

While waking watches, undertaken by fire wardens, are a ‘mandatory requirement’ of many fire authorities ‘to keep buildings occupied’, the cost of keeping them in place is met by leaseholders ‘in many private sector buildings’, and with more people self isolating, working from home or losing their jobs as a result of the pandemic, ‘the costs will become even less bearable’.

The news outlet also pointed out that waking watch costs are added to ‘soaring’ insurance premiums for many buildings, ‘neither of which are covered’ by the government’s £1bn extra funding announced in last week’s budget – which is limited to funding the removal of cladding. With estimates that there are ‘hundreds of buildings across the country with waking watches in place’, over 300 buildings having aluminium composite material cladding and hundreds more have other combustible materials.

The joint statement read: ‘The COVID-19 outbreak is the biggest public health challenge for a generation. We acknowledge the huge strain this rapidly changing crisis will place on government and the number of people who will require support as a result of it. Nonetheless, the situation is particularly critical for many leaseholders in buildings with dangerous cladding.

‘The huge additional and ongoing costs that many leaseholders have to pay as a result of living in dangerous cladding blocks means they face an impossible decision about work and self-isolation. No income means no ability to pay for the waking watch the building needs for them to stay in that building.

‘As these costs are not currently within the scope of the £1bn fund announced at last week’s Budget, additional help is urgently required. For us, self-isolating means returning to a building which is a potential death trap. With many more people working at home or not able to work at all, they will be spending much more time in buildings where there are grave concerns about safety.’