In the absence of anyone else doing anything, LKP organised the first meeting of private leaseholders in blocks with Grenfell style cladding … but developers like Lendlease stayed away.
The meeting was the first opportunity for leaseholders in 297 tower blocks to meet and exchange information and support.
No developers, warranty providers or freeholders turned up, although they were invited to the meeting which was an All Party Parliamentary Group on leasehold reform meeting.
It was chaired by LKP trustee Martin Boyd and included the new housing minister Kit Malthouse, a former deputy mayor of London, and his Labour shadow Sarah Jones, who has a private site with cladding in her Croydon constituency.
Several other MPs attended: APPG co-chairs Jim Fitzpatrick – an authority on fire safety – Sir Peter Bottomley and Sir Ed Davey, as well as Chi Onwurah and others.
It was a very useful but emotionally anguished meeting.
Here were people whose lives are on hold: they cannot move home; they cannot re-mortgage. The drivers of most property transactions involving homeowners are death, divorce and debt, and they all apply here.
But nothing is happening.
Many are sick with worry that everything they have worked for is now valueless. Worse there is the fear of living in an unsafe building, with some leaseholders fearing arson vandalism if it is known that their site has this combustible cladding.
Anuj Vats, of Citiscape, in Croydon, where the £2 million bill is to be settled by Barratt’s 15 years after it built the site, said that the over-riding feeling was: “What did I do wrong?”
“I put all my savings into this flat and now it was unsellable and I faced a huge bill,” he said. “What had I done wrong to be ruined liked this? This is a feeling many in this room will understand.”
Kit Malthouse repeated the government line that it expected developers and freeholders to do the right thing and shoulder the financial cost.
BBC R4 You and Yours reported the meeting as its first item the next day, where LKP trustee Sebastian O’Kelly said there was no prospect of freehold speculators doing this.
Cladding on flats, supermarket packaging and why we (nearly) all love an online shop.
“You could say, why should they, they did not build the sites,” asked presenter Melanie Abbot.
Mr O’Kelly replied: “You could say, what are they for? Only England and Wales has this third party freeholder.
“English leaseholders are in a far worse position than Scottish flat owners at Glasgow Harbour, which also has this cladding, who have a direct contractural connection with the developer, the warranty provider and possibly the insurance.
Susan Bright, professor of law at Oxford University, gave a powerful presentation outlining the legal options for leaseholders to litigate, but all are complex, time-consuming and expensive.
Professor Bright’s argument are given in full here
The Government has charged developers with the responsibility to come up with proposals. The Housing, Communities and Local Government Committee has recommended the introduction of a low-interest loan scheme for building owners to ensure that the work is done but that costs are not passed on to leaseholders.
It is inconceivable that a group of leaseholders could stay united to fight this over several years.
The point made to You and Yours is that leaseholders have to get their freeholders to sue developers for the cladding. What freeholder is going to risk considerable expense to do that with not prospect of any financial reward if they win.
This is the overriding reason why leaseholder tenants are so disadvantaged over the Grenfell cladding issue, compared with Scottish flat owners – who really do own their flats, the building and the land on which it stands.
BBC R4 You and Yours also referenced Australian developer Lendlease, whose two Manchester sites Cypress Place and Vallea Court have Grenfell cladding.
Freeholder Pemberstone is taking the matter to tribunal, so that leaseholders rather than them are established as liable for the bill.
It remains to be seen whether Lendlease will follow Barratt and Taylor Wimpey and the NHBC which have all undertaken to pay to remove cladding from sites.
There has been no reply to this, although a PR representing Lendlease said the matter had been left to Pemberstone.
Chief Executive Officer International Operations & Europe
Lendleasecc James Brokenshire, Communities Secretary
Sir Peter Bottomley MP (co-chair All Party Parliamentary Group on leasehold reform)
Jim Fitzpatrick MP (ditto)
Sir Ed Davey (ditto)
Dear Mr Labbad,
I write to you concerning today’s Independent report that the freehold owner, Pemberstone, of your Manchester sites Cypress Place and Vallea Court is seeking a court ruling that the 300 leaseholders pay to remove Grenfell cladding from their sites.
Lendlease declined to comment to the Independent, but we ask that you address this publicly.
Ministers, and the prime minister, have repeatedly urged housebuilders to pay to remove the cladding that they put on their buildings.
Barratt has agreed to do so at Citiscape, in Croydon, which it built in 2001.
Taylor Wimpey has agreed to do so at Glasgow Harbour, where the homeowners are not leasehold tenants under England’s flawed laws.
Will Lendlease step in to rectify build defects at the two Manchester sites?
At present, it seems a certainty that the bill will fall on your former customers who in good faith purchased leases at Cypress Place and Vallea Court.
Residents in two Manchester apartment blocks with flammable cladding have called on the council to deny the buildings’ developer a £190m contract to redevelop the city’s town hall. The Australian company Lendlease, which built the towers in Manchester’s Green Quarter in 2013, is thought to be among those bidding to refurbish the Grade I-listed building.
Grenfell cladding and the 100,000 unsellable leasehold properties owing to onerous ground rents, mean Kit Malthouse has a lot on his plate after his first week honeymoon in the job.