More private block residents face cladding charge

More private block residents face cladding charge

LEASEHOLDERS IN the Victoria Wharf building in Tower Hamlets are facing ‘escalating service charges’ after the freeholder refused to pay for the removal of flammable cladding.

Inside Housing reported on the situation facing leaseholders at the building in Tower Hamlets, which has been found to have aluminium composite material (ACM) cladding similar to that used on Grenfell Tower. Since the discovery of this in November 2017, residents have been paying for three fire wardens to patrol the building 24 hours a day, and now the freeholder has ‘refused to pay’ for removal of the cladding.

The 82 leaseholders were asked in addition to pay ‘up front’ for installing an electronic fire alarm system, for a cost of around £35,000, with emails between them and the building’s management agent Sterling Estates Management said to show that it would ‘not begin installation’ until the ‘bulk’ of the cost had been ‘recouped through increased service charges’. The fire wardens meanwhile have cost residents around £24,000 per month.

Once the alarm system has been installed, only warden would be required on site, but installation has been ‘further delayed’ due to the system not being compliant with updated guidance from the National Fire Chiefs Council (NFCC), ‘despite work on the alarms only commencing after the publication’ of the guidance in May. The next bi annual service charge bill for leaseholders is due next month, but they have ‘not yet been informed’ about how much it would increase by.

The news outlet pointed out that upgrading the system to comply with the NFCC guidance ‘has now begun’, while research into the building’s owners has begun, with emails suggesting that the block was originally owned by Ireland-based Columbia Estates Management. This company transferred the freehold to Kedai Limited, and both companies list David and Patrick Kennedy as directors, but ‘it is unclear who currently owns the building’.

Mr Kennedy did not respond to questions from Inside Housing, and Sterling Estates Management ‘declined to comment’, and while some freeholders and property managers elsewhere in the UK have made warranty claims to cover cladding removal costs, as Victoria Wharf is over 10 years old, the structural warranty ‘is likely to have lapsed’.

At this time, it is ‘understood’ that ‘at least one’ of the leaseholders in the building has been unable to sell their property ‘at or near the original asking price’ due to the cladding still being on the building. Another leaseholder commented that ‘it’s reliant on the freeholders “doing the right thing” but they are clearly not going to’.