UK Politics

Cladding checks: Circle of blame around building safety rules has left me ‘stuck’

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After the horror of Grenfell, new rules were brought in to ensure the safety of high-rise buildings – but the result is potentially thousands of people unable to move home because banks won't lend mortgages on homes without a safety certificate.

Here, Nicki Cooper from Bromley, southeast London, explains why she is unable to look forward to the next part of her life.

I did what most of my generation was taught to do – save up and get on that first rung of the property ladder. I thought I'd created stability for my future, but now I'm stuck.

Image: Ms Cooper says she is unable to move home

My husband and I want to move onto the next phase of our lives by moving out of London to be closer to my parents.

COVID-19 has made this even more important to us.

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Instead, like many of my generation, I've been robbed of the ability to plan a future. More than anything, I lie awake at night wondering whether my home is even safe.

I listed my property in January. As it's in a building under 18 metres I didn't foresee any issues.

More from Grenfell Tower

The government then updated its building safety guidance and called for dangerous cladding on all buildings, regardless of height, to be removed.

Despite receiving several offers it became clear that without an External Wall Fire Review (EWS1) form to confirm the building is safe, my property has no value in the eyes of mortgage lenders. Even now, thinking about it makes me want to cry.

Nicki Cooper's building needs to be inspected because of the cladding
Image: Ms Cooper's building needs to be inspected because of the cladding

A common rebuttal by freeholders is there aren't enough qualified engineers to conduct the survey required.

My neighbours and I have been proactive and found engineers willing to produce the ESW1 report in a matter of weeks but the Freeholder, Peabody, will not allow us to instruct them nor are they willing to pay for their own engineer.

An assessment of our property could "mean further investigation (intrusive) or remediation". There is no benefit to them paying for a report which may indicate work is needed because it creates a potentially large liability for them.

Peabody has been very clear that unless there is legislation that instructs them to do so, they won't help us.

If Grenfell taught us something, it should be that housing associations should not so blatantly put a value on human life.

The Grenfell Tower in west London on the day the first report from the public inquiry into the fire which claimed 72 lives is published.
June: Buildings still covered in dangerous cladding

Planning how we would escape from the top floor of our building in the event of a fire is not a conversation I thought my husband and I would have to have in such detail.

Current government policy on building safety is ambiguous, confusing and at odds with stimulating the housing market.

It has done nothing but create a circle of blame, with developers, insurers, freeholders, and lenders all dodging responsibility.

Meanwhile, thousands are stuck in potentially unsafe buildings with no prospect of moving on. When will the government step in to break this cycle?

The building  where Nicki Cooper lives
Image: The building where Ms Cooper lives

:: In response, freeholder Peabody told Sky News: "This is an extremely frustrating situation for leaseholders who are in this difficult position through no fauRead More – Source