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Cladding Scandal Victims Rally In Brum

Brindley House on Newhall Street,Birmingham | Credit: Dylan Hayward

Dozens of leaseholders demonstrated in Birmingham’s Victoria Square today in protest of the large bills they are facing to remove unsafe cladding from homes and a lack of government support.

In the aftermath of the Grenfell fire in 2017, bills to pay to fix fire safety defects and remove unsafe cladding have been passed on to leaseholders.

Around fifty protesters demonstrated outside Birmingham Town Hall to protest the government’s handling of the cladding scandal and the bills they are facing.

The rally was organised by BrumLag, a group set up to represent leaseholders in the city and wider region.

Sukhvinder Tiwana, 46 is the leaseholder of an apartment in central Birmingham who was billed £31,400 after her apartment was found to have unsafe external wall cladding.

Caption: Sukhvinder outside Birmingham Town Hall | Dylan Hayward

Sukhvinder brought the apartment in 2012 for £70,000 as an rental investment that she say’s has turned ‘horribly wrong’.

She says;“I feel like I’m being punished for something when I’ve not done anything wrong, how was I meant to know what’s between the walls.”

Adding;

“ It’s not just cladding that I will have to pay for, It’s other defects such as missing internal firebreaks, which didn’t meet the building regulations at the time. “

Another leaseholder, Sam has an estimated bill of £72,000 after his apartment was found to be missing fire breaks that he say’s were  ‘part of building regulations at the time’.

“ If this was a car with a safety defect, it would have been recalled and we would be compensated, but we’ve been asked to pay for the remediation costs to our buildings, which are essentially fire traps that we’ve already paid for. We’ve been asked for 10s of 1000s of pounds” says Sam.

“The cladding scandal has highlighted the lack of enforcement powers available” says Geoff Wilkinson, a fire engineer and building inspector at Wilkinson Construction Consultants.

“Due to the complex way in which the UK property market works building owners are left to pickup the bill and leaseholders find themselves liable to compensate the freeholder, through no fault of their own” says Geoff.

In February this year, a £3.5bn fund was announced by the government to be used to fix dangerous cladding on high rise buildings over 18 meters.

The fund however only covers the removal of external cladding systems and doesn’t include defects such as missing fire breaks or inadequate fire doors.

‘It’s useless’ says Sukhvinder who has applied for funding but would still have to pay for defects the fund doesn’t cover such as the missing fire breaks.

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