NHS heroes stuck in cladding ‘bureaucratic nightmare’, Mayor tells MPs

The Government must provide leadership and clarity for leaseholders who are unable to sell their home and are facing huge bills to remove potentially dangerous cladding, the Mayor of Hackney has told a committee of MPs.

Hackney Council has been contacted by leaseholders living in private blocks – including NHS staff and key workers – who say they are living with “considerable stress and anxiety” as they battle the owners of the buildings, mortgage lenders and the Government.

Many of them are being asked to pay large sums of money – sometimes tens of thousands of pounds – due to their private building owners being unable to recover the costs of removing or fixing cladding from the Government.

Some are unable to remortgage, staircase or sell their flats – even though their buildings were built to regulations at the time – because mortgage lenders are unwilling to provide a mortgage on properties that do not meet the latest Government advice relating to cladding. Some mortgage companies are subsequently valuing their homes at £0, leaving leaseholders whose fixed-rate mortgages are ending lumped with high variable-rate mortgages of up to 6%.

The Council estimates hundreds of residents could be affected. Nearly three years after the Grenfell Tower fire, very few building owners across the country have been able to access funding from the Government’s Cladding Remediation Fund. 

The information was given in written evidence to the Housing, Communities and Local Government Select Committee’s inquiry into cladding remediation on behalf of Hackney’s leaseholders.

We are concerned about the responsibility of funding remediation falling on those with the least resources or access to legal representation, at a time when their focus is rightly on their heroic frontline work. 

Ministers should not expect Hackney’s key workers to be spending their time off in a bureaucratic nightmare. 

These residents have a limited ability to fund the necessary remediation work or to engage in a drawn out legal battle with building owners – especially at a time when they are risking their lives to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

The Government must require greater transparency about the ownership of buildings, materials used, and where liabilities are placed.
Philip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney, and Cllr Sem Moema, Mayoral Advisor on Private Renting and Housing Affordability

The issue is also affecting the Council’s own buildings, with mortgage lenders interpreting the Government’s guidance differently and requiring Council leaseholders and buyers to provide detailed evidence about the construction of their home.

The Council has contacted more than 200 building owners in the borough to ask them to provide data on the construction of their buildings at the request of the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government – but in some cases, responses have been inadequate or slow.