Flat owners’ landed with £60k bill to check fire safety

Riverside flats in King Street, Norwich; New Ferry Yard, New Half Moon Yard, and the Malt House, tar

Residents at the Read Mills development hope to get the results of a fire safety survey on their flats in the next few weeks - Credit: Archant

Flat owners are paying thousands of pounds for fire safety checks and face huge bills on top of that if work is needed to remove cladding - despite the government pledging support. 

Residents at the Read Mills development on Norwich's King Street were told they needed to pay £400 each in October for a fire survey.

The survey cost around £60,000 in total and until it is done, no one can sell or remortgage at the development of 155 flats. 

David Atkins, 74, a retired civil engineer, who lives in one of the six blocks, Half Moon Yard, said: “We moved in eight years ago and were under the impression that fire safety checks had been carried out on a regular basis and everything was OK.”

David Atkins

David Atkins, a resident at New Half Moon Yard on the Read Mills development - Credit: David Atkins

Norwich Residential Management (NRM), which manages the block, said the survey was needed so residents could get a form called an EWS1 to sell or remortgage.

They said the leaseholders rather than the building's owner - the freeholder - were responsible for maintenance.

But that could leave the leaseholders, such as Mr Atkins, with piles of debt. 

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The government has pledged £5 billion to replace flammable cladding, but only on buildings over 18 metres and Mr Atkins said there was confusion amongst residents whether their buildings measured over 18m or not.

Riverside flats in King Street, Norwich; New Ferry Yard, New Half Moon Yard, and the Malt House, tar

The Read Mills development where residents have paid £60,000 for a fire survey - Credit: Archant

The funding also does not cover other fire safety defects such as missing fire breaks.

On Monday the House of Commons voted against giving leaseholders protection to fix fire safety problems. The vote was backed by Labour but voted against by Conservatives. It would have meant the government would have covered the costs of work and then recouped that money from developers and cladding companies.

But Conservatives, who voted down the measures, said the amendment could trigger legal action against the government and was too complex.

Norwich South Labour MP Clive Lewis, who voted for the amendment, said: “I've been contacted by worried constituents living in these kinds of flats, who, like hundreds of other people in Norfolk, remain trapped in dangerous homes, that they can’t sell." 

“The Grenfell Tower fire was over four years ago, but instead of finally bringing this tragic saga to an end, current Tory plans will pile years of debt onto the victims of this scandal."

South Norwich Labour MP Clive Lewis Photo: UK Parliament

South Norwich Labour MP Clive Lewis Photo: UK Parliament - Credit: UK Parliament

An estimated 1,000 people in Norfolk are still living in flats with flammable cladding, according to Labour Party analysis. 

That includes residents at Dukes Palace Wharf on Duke Street.

Leaseholders outside Dukes Palace Wharf building in Duke Street, where they have fire safety problem

Leaseholders outside Dukes Palace Wharf building in Duke Street. From left, David Payne, Mary and Barry Sharp, Gill and Mike Pavitt, Grant Rudgley, and Gillian Damerell. - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

When a resident could not remortgage last year, their management company used reserves to pay for a fire survey costing £12,700. They are waiting for the results, but resident Gillian Damerell, 43, who accompanied the surveyors around the building last week was not hopeful.

“There is cladding over the building but that is not the issue," she said. "We think fire breaks are either missing or installed incorrectly."

The building was completed in 2006 when fire safety regulations were already in place. 

Dukes Palace Wharf building in Duke Street, where leaseholders have fire safety problems with the cl

Dukes Palace Wharf building in Duke Street - Credit: DENISE BRADLEY/Archant2021

But Ms Damerell said: “You can’t even hear the fire alarm in some parts of the building."

“I think the only solution is a political one. Developers and freeholders must contribute too.” 

Meanwhile, at Paper Mill Yard, next to the Read Mills development, residents have already had their fire safety survey back and it was not good news.

They have been told by NRM that their building was given the lowest rating of a B2 meaning that there are combustible materials in the external walls and remedial work is needed. However, it is not yet clear what that work will be or how much it will cost.

Carli La Motte, who is trying to sell her flat at the development, said leaseholders were stuck in limbo while they waited to hear about the cost.

NRM said in an email to residents that they appreciated it was a stressful time and added: "We will get quotes for the necessary remedial works as soon as possible."

Dukes Palace Wharf residents have set up a campaign group called the Norfolk Leaseholder Action Group for anyone impacted. They can be contacted at NorfolkLAG@gmail.com

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