Towers’ residents lose cladding tribunal

Towers’ residents lose cladding tribunal

RESIDENTS OF the Vallea Court and Cypress Place high rises in Manchester have been ruled liable for the cost of replacing combustible cladding on the towers.

Last month, residents of the high rises in Manchester’s Green Quarter were reported to be facing a tribunal against property owners Pemberstone over who pays for combustible cladding removal. The case included 300 leaseholders, and aimed to force them to pay £10,000 each toward the £3m bill for replacing flammable cladding.

Leaseholders argued ‘they did not feel it was their responsibility to pay’, before Pemberstone launched the legal action, crowdfunding enough money to pay for legal advice, but not enough for a lawyer for the hearings. The blocks’ freehold was sold to Pemberstone in recent years, and the company argued residents should pay for any remedial works, but original builders Lend Lease – in an introduction letter to a purchaser – said that it would ‘undertake, at our expense, to complete any accepted defect that has arisen as a result of either faulty materials or defective workmanship’.

However, it had been ‘silent on the issue’, even though the buildings are ‘understood to still be under warranty’, with residents unable to ‘claim costs’ on cladding removal and through insurance – the tribunal is set to report back in six weeks. Leaseholders had ‘no idea what will happen if they lose the tribunal’, with local MP Lucy Powell having assisted in similar cases across Manchester since the Grenfell Tower fire.

She got a response from former housing minister Dominic Raab in which he reiterated that private sector companies should ‘do the right thing’ and not pass costs on to leaseholders, but did not ‘outline any government plans to force this’. A Lendlease spokesperson added that ‘safety is our top priority. We were not aware of the tribunal, until yesterday, and are now investigating these issues’.

Fears over the cladding causing another fire were reinforced in late June when a fire took hold next door to Vallea Court. Lendlease was reported in Australia last year to have covered the cost of removing flammable cladding from Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital, while a recent developer decision to pay for cladding replacement in Croydon at the Citiscape block had been seized upon by residents.

They noted they could not sell, remortgage or rent flats during the dispute, and were stuck in a ‘giant tinderbox’, particularly in light of the recent fire. Residents had also argued that Lendlease should not have been allowed to bid to develop the city’s town hall, and now The Guardian has reported that the tribunal has ruled the leaseholders are ‘liable for the cost of replacing [the] flammable cladding’.

The ruling stated that the payments will be added to the leaseholders’ service charges at a cost of £10,000 each plus Pemberstone’s legal fees, while flat owners in Vallea Court have been required to pay for the waking watch on the block ‘until it was made fire safe’.

A Pemberstone spokesman stated: ‘The tribunal is an independent forum to which landlords and leaseholders can apply to establish clarity on issues of this type. It is particularly appropriate for large schemes like this where there are 345 apartments, of which 75% are owned by investors and some of whom are located overseas. Now that the tribunal decision has been issued, this should allow us to establish a clear way forward.’

The company added that it ‘appreciated the concerns of those living in the blocks’, and that the buildings’ managers ‘were working closely with the fire service to keep people safe’, its spokesman adding that ‘we will consider carefully and sympathetically how any payments can be structured to spread the cost over time’.

A spokesperson for Lendlease also commented: ‘Shepherd’s Construction, were responsible for the design and build of Vallea Court and Cyprus Place, and the current owner of the building is Pemberstone Ltd.’