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Residents of unsafe cladding flats facing bills topping £100,000, ministers hear

·3-min read

A “comprehensive plan” is needed to help leaseholders in high-risk flats who have been left with bills running into the hundreds of thousands and flats that are worthless, ministers have been told.

Labour former minister Hilary Benn told the Commons he had heard from a constituent facing a bill of £103,000 to fix cladding on their home.

The Government also heard calls to go faster and further to help leaseholders “trapped” in the “perfect storm” of living in flats they are unable to sell, and having to pay high insurance bills and the costs of fire safety measures.

Leeds Central Mr Benn MP said: “Earlier this week one of my constituents received a bill for £103,000 to fix cladding, for which they are not responsible, requesting sums of money that they do not possess.

“It is reported that the Secretary of State (Michael Gove)… has been told by the Prime Minister to sort out the problem.”

Mr Benn added: “The measures the Government has announced, which I support, are insufficient to bring this nightmare to an end.

“When are we going to see a comprehensive plan to help those leaseholders?”

Housing minister Christopher Pincher replied: “There are many people caught up in a very terrible situation.

“That is why we have spent already over £5 billion of public money on remediating the high-rise tall buildings and we’ll be bringing forward further proposals to deal with some of the other issues that he identifies.”

Labour MP for Leeds Central, Hilary Benn (Aaron Chown/PA)
Labour MP for Leeds Central, Hilary Benn (Aaron Chown/PA)

Putney MP Fleur Anderson said: “It’s not fast enough or far enough for the thousands of leaseholders in Putney who are trapped in a perfect storm, some living in unsafe buildings and many more caught up in the crisis of confidence in building safety.

“They can’t sell their homes and yet through no fault of their own they’re forced to pay thousands in ongoing costs for waking watch or sleeping watch, as they call it, and insurance before we even get to the costs of remediation works.

“They need ministers to get a faster grip of this situation and solve the crisis.”

She called on the Government to agree to Labour’s proposal for a “building works agency” aimed at finding problems in unsafe homes, fixing and funding them and then pursuing construction or housing companies for costs.

Mr Pincher replied: “She will know that through the building safety fund we have now distributed £734 million to 689 identified buildings.

“Identified by local councils and communities which are best placed to do this, with the result that 65,000 homes are now in the process of being remediated.

“97% of buildings with unsafe ACM cladding have been remediated or are in the process of so being.

“Of course we want to speed up the process, of course we’ll work with developers, with local authorities, with fire and risk assessors to make sure the work is being done.”

Shadow housing secretary Lucy Powell said the building safety crisis was “now urgent and getting worse”.

“Every day more innocent homeowners receive new and enormous bills for remediation.

“Their insurance costs soar and lenders won’t lend,” she said.

Mr Pincher said: “Of course we want to make sure that leaseholders are not exposed to unfair costs.

“That’s what we’ve been working toward since the Grenfell disaster and after, and we will continue so to do.”

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