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Cladding victim faces bankruptcy even if her repair bill is paid

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A cladding victim has revealed that she faces possible bankruptcy in the next 18 months even if the Government pays for her repair bill.

Charlotte Meehan, 33, said owners of flats in her block in East London were being ‘bled dry’ by the soaring cost of interim fire safety measures that have been in place while they were waiting for remediation works to begin.

Those interim measures had so far racked up bills of nearly £500,000 for residents for a waking watch at the Bow development, she said.

They are being levied on top of the standard service charge and she is also worried that a huge bill may arrive for other fire defects that are not cladding and covered by any Government help.

Charlotte Meehan, 33, (pictured) said owners of flats in her block in East London were being 'bled dry' by the soaring cost of interim fire safety measures

Charlotte Meehan, 33, (pictured) said owners of flats in her block in East London were being ‘bled dry’ by the soaring cost of interim fire safety measures

Mrs Meehan issued the warning that she – and many others like her, including her husband who she bought the flat with – face bankruptcy in the months ahead, despite welcoming the housing secretary’s announcement this week. 

Michael Gove, the Secretary of State for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities, said that leaseholders were ‘trapped’ and that it was time to protect them and make ‘industry pay’.

He announced that leaseholders living in blocks under 18m – including Mrs Meehan’s block at 15m – would not have to pay their cladding repair bills. Only those living in buildings above 18 metres had previously access to the Fire Safety Fund.

He said: ‘We will scrap proposals for loans and long-term debt for leaseholders in medium-rise buildings and give a guarantee that no leaseholder living in their own flat will pay a penny to fix dangerous cladding.’ 

It is welcome news for affected leaseholders who faced financially crippling bills for remediation works, often running into hundreds of thousands of pounds.

However, the current reality for many of these flat owners is that they still face massive bills to cover interim fire measures such as waking watches.

Mr Gove’s announcement this week was welcomed by Mrs Meehan and her husband, but she said that soaring service charges were already beginning to take their toll.

Their service charges cover the cost of a waking watch, which she claimed has already cost her development of 96 units in East London almost £500,000 for the last 18 months. 

The couple bought the one-bedroom flat in 2016 for £362,000, and has seen costs already run into thousands of pounds – and that’s even before the cost of the remediation works.  

Other developments affected by the cladding crisis are also seeing their insurance costs soar.

A waking watch bill for the building’s residents running at £293,500 per year, including VAT, has led to charges of about £490,000 over the past 20 months. 

Speaking exclusively to MailOnline Property, Mrs Meehan said: ‘I am cautiously optimistic about Gove’s announcement as it at least brings us into the conversation, I still don’t know if it goes far enough to force the developers to pay.’

‘We want full remediation costs, as well as those historic, present and future costs for safety measures put in place while we wait for them to remediate.

‘Our argument has always been that we are a connected building to a block that is more than 18 metres.

‘Remediating the section of the building that is above 18 metres and leaving the rest that is under 18 metres means the spread of fire is still significant.’

But she added: ‘There are some key elements missing from Gove’s announcement, including other fire safety defects outside of cladding not being included. Two thirds of our bill would be for fire defect repairs outside of cladding. It is a concern that leaseholders may still have to pay for those.’ 

‘Another is that we are being bled dry. I have not seen any cleaners in our communal areas for months. You can imagine what it looks like. It is ten years old anyway and is covered in graffiti. It is in a dire state of disrepair.

‘What happens to people like us who have no money left to do normal repairs as it has all gone our waking watch?

Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, concerns about cladding have become a national issue

Since the Grenfell Tower fire in 2017, concerns about cladding have become a national issue

She suggested that the development’s £500,000 waking watch bill has left its reserve funds ‘decimated’.

She went on to explain: ‘These interim costs are extortionate and are bankrupting people now. Gove is not looking at those and that is my big concern.

‘Our service charges doubled last year and yet our salaries haven’t, so we can’t afford to pay them. We won’t have anything left.

These interim costs are extortionate and are bankrupting people now. Gove is not looking at those and that is my big concern

‘Not only have we got service charges rising to cover the cost of these extra fire safety measures while we wait to see if we are going to be remediated, the service charges are also rising as the reserve funds have been used and there is nothing to pay for normal everyday maintenance work.

‘The Government needs to look at all aspects that have affected leaseholders as a result of the fire safety building crisis. 

‘We have some savings but it is only a little bit of money to cover something like if our boiler packed up or to help us start a family.

‘We would not be able to pay should we receive an unexpected £10,000 service charge bill, and I don’t know how they expect us to come up with all this money.’

The cost of her remediation works are on top of any current service charge bills. Any fire safety measures outside of cladding systems, such as combustible insulation or missing cavity barriers, are unlikely to be covered by Gove’s latest funding announcement. 

The waking watch at her development has so far cost £244,608 a year plus VAT, a total of £293,500, and has been in place for 20 months.

Mrs Meehan said: ‘People are already out of pocket and even going bankrupt just due to interim measures.

‘The interim safety measures are bankrupting people, not just the remediation costs. You are meant to feel safe in your home but we can’t relieve ourselves of this financial burden. We have been forced to be here through no fault of our own and it is torture.’

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London home of singer Boy George is for sale for £17million

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Get me out of here! INSIDE Boy George’s home that includes colourful artwork and designer furniture – and is up for grabs for £17million

  • Spectacular London home of Boy George includes plenty of colourful artwork and designer furniture
  • The semi-detached house features a central staircase in an impressive triple height central hall
  • The stunning six-bedroom property overlooks Hampstead Heath and is on the market for £17million 

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The spectacular London home of Boy George has gone on the market and is up for grabs with a price tag of £17million.

The hitmaker recently appeared in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and will no doubt be pleased to have returned to the luxury of his Hampstead home after appearing on the TV show, sleeping amid snakes and plenty of jungle foliage.

During his time in the jungle, Boy George treated his camp mates to a rendition of his most famous 1980s tune, Karma Chameleon – something he can also do now he is back home as he has a dedicated entertainment room that includes a DJ set up.

The spectacular London home of Boy George has gone on the market and is up for grabs with a price tag of £17million

The spectacular London home of Boy George has gone on the market and is up for grabs with a price tag of £17million 

Boy George’s home forms the central part of a Grade II listed building that was built around 1868 and sits in a quarter of an acre overlooking desirable Hampstead Heath.

It is a semi-detached property, with fellow high profile celebrity Sam Smith having moved in next door in 2015.

The Grade II listed Gothic Villa was built around 1868, and it sits on an a quarter of an acre plot overlooking Hampstead Heath

The Grade II listed Gothic Villa was built around 1868, and it sits on an a quarter of an acre plot overlooking Hampstead Heath

The hitmaker recently appeared in I'm a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and even sang some of his iconic tunes to his fellow camp mates

The hitmaker recently appeared in I’m a Celebrity Get Me Out of Here and even sang some of his iconic tunes to his fellow camp mates

The impressive property has a grand entrance hallway

Aston Chase estate agents is handling the sale

The impressive Hampstead property for sale has a grand entrance hallway and is being sold via the estate agent Aston Chase

The villa forms the central part of a mansion that boasts an eccentric mix of modern, Gothic and Italianate architecture

The villa forms the central part of a mansion that boasts an eccentric mix of modern, Gothic and Italianate architecture

Inside, the property has plenty of period features, including the ceiling in this seating area which has been painted in a similar tone to the walls

Inside, the property has plenty of period features, including the ceiling in this seating area which has been painted in a similar tone to the walls

Guests visiting the house can be treated to a music session from Boy George in this large entertainment area with its own DJ set up

Guests visiting the house can be treated to a music session from Boy George in this large entertainment area with its own DJ set up 

The house has been extensively refurbished and includes a central staircase in a triple height central hall.

The staircase leads to the main bedroom suite, which overlooks Hampstead Heath and features a bathroom with a giant skylight as the ceiling. 

And there is a landscaped garden at both the front and back of the property, as well as off-street parking for several vehicles.

The refurbishment and extension of the home took three years

The house features a central staircase in a triple height central hall

The refurbishment and extension of the home took three years and features a central staircase in a triple height central hall

The luxury property has six bedrooms, including this one with plenty of interesting artwork

The luxury property has six bedrooms, including this one with plenty of interesting artwork 

As well as six bedrooms, the house also boasts a significant number of bathrooms - five in total - including this modern one

As well as six bedrooms, the house also boasts a significant number of bathrooms – five in total – including this modern one

Boy George is known for his sartorial style and several of his hats are on display in this living room, along with photos of iconic singer David Bowie

Boy George is known for his sartorial style and several of his hats are on display in this living room, along with photos of iconic singer David Bowie

The colourful artwork continues in this large bathroom which also boasts a roll top bath and some exposed brickwork

The colourful artwork continues in this large bathroom which also boasts a roll top bath and some exposed brickwork

The area provides good access to public transport via Hampstead Underground station, which is on the Northern Line, and Hampstead Heath Overground.

The six-bedroom property is being sold for £17million and Aston Chase estate agents is handling the sale.

The average price of a property sold in Hampstead in the last 12 months is £1,806,748. It compares to £327,693 for the country as a whole, according to property website Zoopla.

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Age of first-time buyer edges towards 40-years old amid cost of living crisis says First Direct

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Leap for the property ladder! Average age of a first-time buyer reaches 37 amid cost of living crisis – as new homeowners edge ever closer to 40

  • Average buyer predicts they will be 37 years old when they buy their first home
  • The average age of a first-time buyer is up from 32 years old two years ago
  • Study by First Direct says the cost of living and high mortgage rates are to blame

The average age of a first-time buyer is edging ever closer to 40 years old, new data suggests.

The average prospective buyer predicts they will be 37 years old by the time they finally step on the property ladder, up from 32 years old two years ago.

The study from First Direct is based on responses from 1,500 homebuyers and 500 prospective buyers.

The average first-time buyer predicts that they will be 37-years old when they buy a property

The average first-time buyer predicts that they will be 37-years old when they buy a property 

The prospect of getting on the property ladder has become further out of reach for many first-time buyers amid the cost of living crisis.

Inflation means saving for a deposit can be more difficult, along with securing a mortgage.

The data revealed that nearly eight in ten – 77 per cent – of prospective home buyers are concerned about their ability to get on the property ladder.

And the majority of prospective buyers – at 86 per cent – identified the cost-of-living crisis as a notable obstacle to getting on the ladder, with not being able to save as much for a deposit cited – at 59 per cent – as a major reason for any delays to their plans.

The study went on to find that the average first-time buyer will take 7.5 years to save for a deposit. It compares to just five years for those existing homeowners who were surveyed.

When it comes to funding this costly purchase, a total of 28 per cent of people who are waiting to get on the ladder believe the only way they’ll be able to secure a home is through an inheritance – which they are yet to receive.

Most first-time buyers – at 71 per cent – however, intend to use their savings, and four in ten – at 35 per cent – are planning to use Government programmes such as the Help to Buy and shared ownership schemes.

First-time buyers are sceptical about their ability to buy a house on their own as buying with a partner can help secure a mortgage

First-time buyers are sceptical about their ability to buy a house on their own as buying with a partner can help secure a mortgage

Pooling assets with a partner, close relative, or friend can be an alternative way to secure the cash needed for a mortgage.

However, more than half – at 56 per cent – of those who currently own a property did so without the assistance of a partner or sibling.

By contrast, first-time buyers are sceptical about their ability to buy a house on their own, with only 35 per cent citing this as a financial possibility, implying that a significant majority are unable to shoulder the financial burden alone.

Chris Pitt, of First Direct, said: ‘Getting on the property ladder is a distant dream for many today.

‘The rise in house prices relative to incomes is well documented, as is the difficulty in saving for a deposit while at the same time paying rent. What this study shows is the time it takes to save and realise the dream of home ownership – it is a long time and getting longer. The state of the economy will only make this situation worse.’

Mortgage approvals for house purchases fell by more than 10 per cent to 59,000 in October, suggesting homebuying appetite is dissipating amid rising mortgage rates

Mortgage approvals for house purchases fell by more than 10 per cent to 59,000 in October, suggesting homebuying appetite is dissipating amid rising mortgage rates

It comes after it was revealed that Britons are increasingly putting their home buying or moving plans on hold and stashing their cash in fixed term savings as the cost of living crisis bites.

Net mortgage borrowing by individuals fell from £5.9billion in September to £4billion in October, according to the latest figures from the Bank of England.

Mortgage approvals for house purchases also fell by more than 10 per cent to 59,000 in October, down from 66,000 in September, suggesting homebuying appetite is dissipating amid rising mortgage rates.

Mark Harris, of mortgage broker SPF Private Clients, said: ’The deposit tends to be the biggest barrier to getting on the housing ladder so it is little surprise that the average age of a first-time buyer is in their late thirties. With wage growth failing to keep up with property prices, it can be extremely difficult to save up enough to get on the housing ladder, particularly if you have to pay rent in the meantime as this continues to rise too.

’Many first-time buyers rely on parents and even grandparents for financial assistance in getting on the housing ladder. Lenders have cottoned onto the demand for products which help first-time buyers, with the Nationwide Helping Hand scheme offering higher loan-to-income multiples, while Barclays SpringBoard, Family Building Society Family Offset and Generation Home are all worth a look. There is also the Government-supported Mortgage Guarantee Scheme, or joint borrower sole proprietor mortgages, which are increasingly popular.’

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Viewers all say the same thing about King Charles’ £45m Grand Designs restoration of stately home

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Viewers of A Royal Grand Design, which followed the King’s multi-million pound restoration of a stately home in Ayrshire have joked it is just like Channel 4‘s Grand Designs – but without the budget constraints.

The hour-long programme, which took over a decade to produce, told the story of Charles’s ambitious plan to restore the Dumfries House, a 2,000-acre property in which faced a long descent into decrepitude.

It charted how the King (then the Prince of Wales) led a consortium which paid £45 million for the dilapidated estate in 2007 in a bid to save it from ruin and help regenerate the deprived local community.

While watching the programme on ITV this evening, viewers joked the project would probably go to plan much more closely than homeowners on Grand Designs, who often face setbacks and money issues as they aim to build their dream homes.

King Charles (pictured) featured in an hour-long special episode of Grand Designs tonight, in which he admits he enjoys the 'most difficult challenges'

King Charles (pictured) featured in an hour-long special episode of Grand Designs tonight, in which he admits he enjoys the ‘most difficult challenges’

One viewer said: ‘Doubt [Grand Designs host] Kevin McCloud is going to tip up & they’ve run out of money on this one…’

Another joked: ‘The naughtily titled A Royal Grand Design on ITV at 9pm is no assemblage of palte glass or all-timber kit from Germany, but the saving of Dumfries house.’ 

In the programme, Charles showed Her late Majesty, who died on September 8 aged 96, the walled garden in the Scottish estate at its opening in 2014, while he showcased the completed outdoor centre to then Duke and Duchess of Cambridge in 2013. 

Charles described the vast project as an ‘appalling risk’ – but he said it was worth it to help the local community, who suffered after the loss of the mining industry.

As well as restoring the main house, the initiative included bringing the walled garden, one of Europe’s largest, back to life, and adding a horticultural and education centre, a cookery school, textiles centre, STEM unit, and adventure playground, creating jobs in the process.

‘I wanted to try and make a difference to the local area. It had many of the worst indices of unemployment and ill health and everything else,’ Charles said.

‘I’m one of those people who rather likes taking on the most difficult challenges. I felt it was worth taking this appalling risk and taking out such a big loan.’

Royal special: During the episode, Charles is seen speaking to apprentices at Dumfries House in Scotland (pictured)

Royal special: During the episode, Charles is seen speaking to apprentices at Dumfries House in Scotland (pictured)

A Royal Grand Design, which was more than a decade in the making, tells the story of Charles’s ambitious plan to restore the 18th-century stately home Dumfries House (pictured) in Ayrshire

He added: ‘This area has been so battered and deprived, particularly since the loss of the mining industry and everything.’

The then-prince – filmed before he became monarch – also outlined his hopes of a similar project elsewhere in the UK in future, saying he was inspired to help people and their families.

‘That’s my problem, I’m frightfully over ambitious. I long to use this model in other parts of the country where I know it can make a big impact on people’s lives and livelihoods and their whole future and their families’ futures, which is what matters to me,’ Charles said.

‘I hope there’ll be another project fairly soon somewhere, which could be quite large, and hopefully there will be other opportunities. We’ll see. I haven’t given up yet… Watch this space, as they say.’

Charles acceded to the throne following the death of the late Queen in September, and the broadcast is dedicated to the memory of Elizabeth II.

During the programme, the King spoke of his passion for the £45 million project which took a decade to complete

During the programme, the King spoke of his passion for the £45 million project which took a decade to complete

The royal, pictured here visiting the site while the Walled Garden was being built, led a consortium that paid £45million for the property

The royal, pictured here visiting the site while the Walled Garden was being built, led a consortium that paid £45million for the property

Today the 18th century stately home houses stunning walled gardens and an adventure centre, as well as a 22 bedroom B&B

Today the 18th century stately home houses stunning walled gardens and an adventure centre, as well as a 22 bedroom B&B

Footage includes Charles showing his mother around the grounds when she opened the walled garden in 2014.

Narrated by the actor Richard E Grant, the documentary is said to capture the ‘real man behind the crown’.

Charles was seen greeting a local and his dog, waving at visitors and trudging around the site in wet and windy weather.

He expresses his fear the 2,000-acre estate, 27 miles south of Glasgow, would have been turned into a golf club.

‘I knew if we hadn’t stepped in and saved it, somebody would have bought it and said they had a great idea, you know for golf courses and things and it would never have worked, so, it would have joined the list of yet more derelict country houses,’ he said.

Priceless Chippendale furniture and other antique treasures, saved from being sold, were kept in the house and restored.

Since buying it 14 years ago, the monarch has overseen a project that has brought one of the biggest walled gardens in Europe back to life

Since buying it 14 years ago, the monarch has overseen a project that has brought one of the biggest walled gardens in Europe back to life

Viewers took to Twitter to joke about the programme's similarities to Channel 4's Grand Designs - but a more successful version

Viewers took to Twitter to joke about the programme’s similarities to Channel 4’s Grand Designs – but a more successful version

Charles was also seen sharing his concern over the 300-year-old ‘Old Sycamore’ tree in the garden when it appeared to be dying.

‘I can’t bear it because it was such a wonderful thing,’ he said. But the tree survived and continued to grow, with a relieved Charles branding the change ‘remarkable’.  

The then-Prince told the programme: ‘I knew if we hadn’t stepped in and saved [the house], somebody would have bought it and said they had a great idea, you know for golf courses and things and it would never have worked, so, it would have joined the list of yet more derelict country houses.

‘The buildings we’ve built, a lot of them have been done by students, live build, learning. 

‘Sustainability, all of that agenda is critical here because there’s a lot of engineering skills, for instance, we are trying to help develop, working on the STEM educational side and the vocational side in order to make this area as a great example of how you can create new businesses and jobs in the green economy.’

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