Flat owner feels 'trapped' after being hit with £100,000 bill for cladding repairs

A flat owner says she feels “trapped” in a fire hazard apartment after being hit with a whopping £100,000 bill for cladding repairs.

Emilie Boswell, 26, bought her dream £180,000 waterfront property in May 2018 and a fire safety report concluded there were ‘no obvious signs of cladding’.But a year later, residents in the apartment block in the stylish Leeds Dock area were told they needed round-the-clock fire patrols as their flats were not safe.

Now Emilie has been hit with a bill of £101,828.39 for repairs that are needed to bring her flat up to standard.

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Leaseholders in the block, which holds 181 flats, have hoped to utilise the government’s Building Safety Fund, but only some of the materials are eligible for funding.

Emilie has been hit with a bill of £101,828.39 for repairs

And the application for grants can’t proceed until the freeholder signs a contract which it hasn’t yet done.

Emilie said: “I thought I was buying the dream apartment, in the city centre, overlooking the water. To be told it’s so dangerous we have to have people patrol the building 24/7 to look for any signs of fire is scary. It’s caused really bad anxiety. It’s had an enormous impact on my mental health.

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“I can’t plan anything, I don’t want to stay here, but I won’t be able to sell the flat for years. I feel trapped. Leaseholders have done nothing wrong and we’re the ones paying the price. It’s horrendous.”

Emilie Boswell, 26, bought her dream £180,000 waterfront property in May 2018

Emilie thought she was buying her dream apartment in May 2018, when she got the keys to the plush flat in Leeds city centre.

As it was less than a year after the Grenfell tragedy, she ordered a fire safety report which found no obvious use of cladding.

But in November 2019, the block’s management company told Emilie the building actually had cladding at the top of the building.

It also had timber cladding and a white render system which were found to be flammable.

A 24-hour patrol, whose job it was to look out for any signs of fire, was deemed necessary – at a cost of £67 per month to residents.

That patrol ended in August this year when the government funded a fire alarm in the building, which relieved Emilie of that cost.

But just weeks later she was hit with the whopping repairs bill which needs to be agreed before any work can go ahead.

While the apartment is eligible for some funding, the government’s £5bn Building Safety Fund does not cover non-cladding fire safety issues meaning Emilie may need to stump up a large chunk.

She said: “They sent a letter saying you will be getting a bill but you don’t have to settle this yet. But on the bill, it doesn’t say anything about that. I’m just waiting to hear how much of that £101,000 we need to pay.

“We have timber balconies which the government says aren’t eligible for the building safety fund because they’re not part of the exterior of the building. We’ve also got terracotta tiles and brickwork that are missing fire breaks, but because they themselves are not flammable, they’re not eligible for the fund.

“That bill is like a noose around my back. I don’t know how much I’m going to need to pay of it.”

Leaseholders in the apartment block submitted their application for funding more than a year ago, but are still desperately seeking answers.

Emilie added: “It’s terrifying, you’re essentially living in a firetrap. And then with lockdown and working from home, we’ve been in these flats all the way through.

“Every night before I go to bed I do so many checks to make sure all my electrical equipment is turned off.

“I’m so scared of the building catching fire, it’s the last thing I think of every night.”