West Hampstead flat owners face £100k bills for flammable cladding
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Residents of a West Hampstead apartment block face bills for hundreds of thousands of pounds, after learning their homes are covered in flammable cladding.
The Ivery, on Iverson Road, was marketed in 2016 as a “thoughtfully designed” new-build, with "copper and stone styled cladding systems” and “high performance insulation”.
The brochure called the 19 flats “the ideal place to live or invest”.
But now buyers could incur huge losses.
Inspectors last year marked its cladding, a type known as Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) as a “fail”, with a high combustibility rating.
The insulation was also “highly combustible” and wooden balconies were also deemed a hazard.
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In January, a 24-hour “waking watch” was ordered at a cost of £1,200 per day until new fire alarms were installed at a cost of £38,500. The building's owner is covering the costs for the time being, but they could eventually be passed on to leaseholders.
They have been warned that replacing the cladding and insulation will cost “multiple millions”.
One 30-year-old resident recalled her “absolute horror” at finding out.
“I had a panic attack," she said. “I couldn’t breathe. When it first started, so many of my worries were fixated on the financial impact. Now the fire alarms are being installed, they’re everywhere. Each time I see one, I’m reminded that the entire building could just go up in flames at any moment.
“Before this, the flat had sentimental value. It’s our first home – the home we were living in when we got married. That’s very special. But I think that’s all been shattered now.
“All our life plans are on hold. If we’ve got to find £150,000 or £200,000 for remedial works, how are we going to afford having children? Honestly, it’s really, really depressing.”
Alex Linton, 34, spent ten years saving a deposit for the flat he now shares with his wife and daughter.
If the bill for the remedial works is as high as predicted, his share will be like having to find that deposit all over again.
“It’s frankly keeping us up all night and terrifying us,” he said. “One reason you buy a new build is you know it meets the regulations and has a warranty. Now we learn it has the same kind of tinderbox make-up as Grenfell.”
According to 31-year-old construction lawyer Sam Cave-Browne-Cave, who bought a flat in The Ivery in 2017, “We can only claim on the warranty if the building didn’t comply with the regulations in place when it was constructed.”
Residents have requested access to key construction documents, but so far nobody has handed them over.
Housing secretary Robert Jenrick announced last week that leaseholders in buildings over 18 metres with flammable cladding could get government funding.
But The Ivery is just under 17 metres, so leaseholders only qualify for “low-interest loans”.
Mr Jenrick said the safety risk in shorter buildings was “significantly lower”, but leaseholder Katya said she felt the 18-metre cap was “completely arbitrary”.
“I think it’s unfair to draw this distinction,” she said. “The leaseholders are not at fault. We didn’t construct it or design it. It should be picked up by the construction industry.”
Mr Jenrick promised leaseholders would pay no more than £50 per month in loan repayments. But, said Alex, that would take “several lifetimes” to repay.
“They say the debt will stay with the flat, not the owner – but how is that going to affect the value of our properties, if they come with these huge debts?” he said.
The loans would only cover cladding. Replacing the insulation and balconies would likely fall on the leaseholders.
“I don’t know what that’s going to cost,” said Sam. “But I’m pretty sure it’s going to be a lot.”
He had planned to sell and move out of London with his girlfriend. Now he can’t.
“It could even result in negative equity, meaning I will have no money in the building whatsoever,” he said. “It’s a complete disaster. Any future plans are completely on hold. The whole situation is a nightmare.”
RG Securities (No 3) Ltd, which owns The Ivery, said it was “delighted” by government plans to help leaseholders in buildings under 18 metres.
It said it was “providing support, expertise and financial assistance”, adding: “As the leaseholders have not been able to access financial support from the government to date, RG Securities is funding the costs of the waking watch and will forward fund the installation of the new alarm system.”
It said it would “get the best possible deal” for remediation works.