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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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Catella invests €15.5m in Portuguese student accommodation

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The Catella European Residential Fund (CER) has made its first venture into the emerging Portuguese institutional investment market for student housing with the acquisition of an asset in the municipality of Cascais, just to the west of Lisbon, for €15.5m. The vendor is Value One HoldingThe property is located close to the beach in the Lombos neighbourhood of Carcavelos within the Cascais municipality and is a 10-minute walk from Portugal’s most prestigious business school, the NOVA School of Business and Economics, which has a student population of over 3,500. The centre of Lisbon can be reached within 20 minutes via two train stations. The 6,622m² property was built in 2020 and comprises 192 spacious single rooms (20m² on average) with a gym, rooftop terrace, study, music and leisure rooms and parking. It is 99% occupied and has obtained LEED Gold sustainability certification for its construction.

 

European student accommodation provider MILESTONE operates the residence under a management contract. MILESTONE was founded in Vienna, is a member of the Value One Group, an international real estate Developer and student housing operator and brings extensive knowledge of the conception, design and successful management of student housing, combined with international expertise. MILESTONE currently has 4,627 beds of purpose-built student housing under management and in development across Austria, Portugal, Germany, Netherlands, Poland and Italy.

 

Eduardo Guardiola, Managing Partner of Catella AM Iberia, said: This is a milestone for CER marking the vehicle’s first investment in Portugal. It is also an important step for CRIM as it represents the investment manager’s entry into Portugal. For Catella AM Iberia it marks our third transaction as advisors on a student accommodation acquisition in the Iberian region. The Portuguese real estate market is becoming increasingly relevant across both the affordable rental and student housing markets – which although very different in maturity and size offer some excellent investment opportunities.”

 

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Kirstie and Phil’s Love It Or List It viewers slam father-of-two who ‘clearly wants a bachelor pad’

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Viewers of Kirstie and Phil’s Love it or List it last night slammed a father-of-two who ‘clearly wanted a bachelor pad’ after he said he wanted a home where his children were ‘out the way.’

Sophie and Paul, from Aylesbury, who had spent the last eight years  in their home, had been totally split on whether they should renovate or list their property on the market for three years. 

The couple had allocated £90,000 to transform their house, but also had a £525,000 budget to look at new homes elsewhere. 

Following Kirstie’s advice on the show, they spent £80,000 converting their garage into a large living space as well as knocking down their old conservatory to make way for a huge extension.

But many of those watching were unimpressed by Paul’s attitude after he said he liked their new playroom because it meant his children ‘couldn’t bug him’.

Viewers of Kirstie and Phil's Love it or List it last night slammed Paul, from Aylesbury who 'clearly wanted a bachelor pad' after he said a home where his children were 'out the way'

Viewers of Kirstie and Phil’s Love it or List it last night slammed Paul, from Aylesbury who ‘clearly wanted a bachelor pad’ after he said a home where his children were ‘out the way’

Sophie and Paul had spent the last eight years in their home but said they had been totally split on whether they should renovate or list their property on the market for three years

Sophie and Paul had spent the last eight years in their home but said they had been totally split on whether they should renovate or list their property on the market for three years

The couple allocated £90,000 to transform their home and added an enormous extension, as well as converting their garage

The couple allocated £90,000 to transform their home and added an enormous extension, as well as converting their garage 

One wrote: ‘He doesn’t like his in-laws, his kids or his house. Think he wishes he was still a bachelor.’

Another wrote: ‘The partner is just gross, he just keeps going on about not being a bachelor anymore and how he doesn’t want the kids to bug him.

‘I get the sense he still likes to think of himself as a bachelor, I can just imagine him on a night out without her.’ 

Appearing on the programme last night, Sophie and Paul had been together for eight years and had two children, seven-year-old Finley and three-year-old Georgia. 

Both Sophie and Paul confessed they felt their family had outgrown the space which they had been living in for the past 13 years

Both Sophie and Paul confessed they felt their family had outgrown the space which they had been living in for the past 13 years 

Following Kirstie's advice they converted their garage into a large living space as well as knocking down their old conservatory to make way for a huge extension

Following Kirstie’s advice they converted their garage into a large living space as well as knocking down their old conservatory to make way for a huge extension

But when Paul bought their three bedroom house 13 years ago, a family home was not the objective. 

He explained: ‘This was my bachelor pad. I’m team List It, I want something fresh and new for Sophie and the kids.’

Meanwhile Sophie said: ‘I’m definitely a home bird and I love being here.’

She said they relied on her parents ‘a lot’ because they lived at the bottom of the road.   

Paul said the living room was one of his pet hates because the family were 'always on top of each other'

Paul said the living room was one of his pet hates because the family were ‘always on top of each other’ 

Meanwhile the couple had converted the property's conservatory into a playroom but admitted it wasn't fit for purpose for their children

Meanwhile the couple had converted the property’s conservatory into a playroom but admitted it wasn’t fit for purpose for their children 

But Paul said: ‘My pet hates include the location, the small bedroom upstairs is a tiny box-room. 

‘The playroom downstairs isn’t fit for purpose, the kitchen needs overhauling and the garage is a mess.

‘The most important thing for me in a house is having the divide between adult space and children space and I think that’s important especially as they grow up.’ 

Sophie added: ‘We’ve been in a limbo now for three years where nothing has been done.’  

The first property that Phil showed the couple was a 1930s semi which was just one mile away from their current home was (pictured)

The first property that Phil showed the couple was a 1930s semi which was just one mile away from their current home was (pictured) 

The four-bedroom home was listed under budget at £475,000 with a cosy separate living room, an up to date kitchen diner and a large family garden (pictured, the kitchen diner)

The four-bedroom home was listed under budget at £475,000 with a cosy separate living room, an up to date kitchen diner and a large family garden (pictured, the kitchen diner) 

While Sophie said the bedrooms were 'nice' (pictured), Paul commented that a spiral staircase up to the master suite was 'a bit tight when you come home late at night drunk'

While Sophie said the bedrooms were ‘nice’ (pictured), Paul commented that a spiral staircase up to the master suite was ‘a bit tight when you come home late at night drunk’

She told Kirstie and Phil she wanted to extend their home, while Paul said: ‘I’ve fallen out of love with the property. We’re all on top of each other here.’ 

But Sophie admitted she was unwilling to move further than a 15 minute drive from her parent’s home. 

Kirstie warned they would have to go to the top of their budget to fix the home’s problems, suggesting extending the kitchen diner into the area where the current conservatory is.

Meanwhile she said they could also convert the garage into a new living room, creating space for a new hallway. 

The second property on the search was in the village of Prestwood and priced at just under £550,000 (pictured)

The second property on the search was in the village of Prestwood and priced at just under £550,000 (pictured) 

It had four bright bedrooms, all of which were big enough to accommodate the children as they got older, as well as a separate playroom and a large kitchen (pictured, the kitchen)

It had four bright bedrooms, all of which were big enough to accommodate the children as they got older, as well as a separate playroom and a large kitchen (pictured, the kitchen)

Paul confessed he liked the property because of it's playroom, adding it would 'keep the children out the way' (pictured)

Paul confessed he liked the property because of it’s playroom, adding it would ‘keep the children out the way’ (pictured) 

Upstairs, the extension would give space for four bedrooms and a master suite.

Meanwhile the first property that Phil showed the couple was a 1930s semi which was just one mile away from their current home was. 

The four-bedroom home was listed under budget at £475,000 with a cosy separate living room, an up to date kitchen diner and a large family garden.

While Sophie said the bedrooms were ‘nice’, Paul commented that a spiral staircase up to the master suite was ‘a bit tight when you come home late at night drunk.’  

The final property was a large detached four-bedroom home was on budget for £525,000 (pictured)

The final property was a large detached four-bedroom home was on budget for £525,000 (pictured) 

It featured a large kitchen diner (pictured) and an office room to the front which could be used as a playroom

It featured a large kitchen diner (pictured) and an office room to the front which could be used as a playroom 

However the couple ultimately decided the downstairs living space wasn’t large enough for their family. 

The second property on the search was in the village of Prestwood and priced at just under £550,000. 

The detached home had been on the market a while, and Phil hoped that a deal could be done.

It had four bright bedrooms, all of which were big enough to accommodate the children as they got older, as well as a separate playroom and a large kitchen.   

After fifteen months of renovations, Kirstie and Phil returned to see the couple's changes to their property and were blown away

After fifteen months of renovations, Kirstie and Phil returned to see the couple’s changes to their property and were blown away 

Commenting on the couple's decision to have  a larger playroom for their children, Paul said it meant they 'wouldn't come through to bug us'

Commenting on the couple’s decision to have  a larger playroom for their children, Paul said it meant they ‘wouldn’t come through to bug us’

Paul commented: ‘Good playroom at the front…keep them out the way. Eventually this could be my main cave.’ 

And the final property in their search was in the quaint village of Stoke, with Paul saying: ‘I like the outside and it’s in a good location.’

The four-bedroom home was on budget for £525,000, with a large kitchen diner and an office room to the front which could be used as a playroom.

Outside, there was a double length garage which could be used for storage space. 

Fifteen months after the couple started the renovations on their home, Kirstie and Phil returned to find the property had been completely transformed. 

However despite Sophie and Paul's joy about their converted home, and their decision to stay in the property, many viewers were unimpressed by his attitud

However despite Sophie and Paul’s joy about their converted home, and their decision to stay in the property, many viewers were unimpressed by his attitud

They were blown away by the extension the couple had added to their home, with even Sophie admitting it was ‘bigger than they expected it to be.’

Meanwhile Paul added: ‘It’s definitely not a bachelor pad now.’

And commenting on the decision to build a separate  play room, he said: ‘The children can turn right [to the playroom] as opposed to coming all the way through here and bugging us.’ 

Overall the couple spent £80,000 and the property value has increased by £150,0000.

However despite Sophie and Paul’s joy about their converted home, and their decision to stay in the property, many viewers were unimpressed by his attitude. 

One wrote: ‘I think this guy just doesn’t want to live in the same house as his kids.’

Another added: ‘The guy on this obviously wants away from her parents and somewhere to shove the kids out of the way…he wants a bachelor pad…just come out and say it!’

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Four found dead at US-Canada border believed to be human smuggling victims

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The bodies were found on Wednesday in barren, snow-covered terrain just feet from the United States border in Manitoba, Canada: a man, a woman, a teenager and an infant who appeared to have frozen to death while trying to cross into the US, according to the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

All four have been tentatively identified as members of a family who may have been victims of a human smuggling operation, the authorities said. Their bodies were discovered about 30-40ft from the US border, in a remote area just less than 10km east of Emerson, Manitoba, the authorities said.

“It is an absolute and heartbreaking tragedy,” assistant commissioner Jane MacLatchy of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police said at a news conference on Thursday, adding that it appeared that all four had died of exposure to the cold.

She emphasised that investigators consider the four to be victims. “We’re very concerned that this attempted crossing may have been facilitated in some way and that these individuals, including an infant, were left on their own in the middle of a blizzard when the weather hovered around minus-35 degrees Celsius, factoring the wind,” Ms MacLatchy said. “These victims faced not only the cold weather but also endless fields, large snowdrifts and complete darkness.”

The bodies were found after US Border Patrol agents stopped Steve Shand (47), of Florida, on Wednesday, while he was driving a 15-passenger van less than 2km south of the Canadian border in a rural area between the official ports of entry at Lancaster, Minnesota and Pembina, North Dakota, federal prosecutors in Minnesota said. He was charged with human smuggling.

Law enforcement officials said two passengers in the rented van that Mr Shand was driving were citizens of India without legal permission to be in the US. While Mr Shand and his passengers were being taken to a Border Patrol station in North Dakota, law enforcement officers found five more Indian citizens walking in the snow about a quarter-mile south of the Canadian border, in the direction of where Mr Shand had been arrested, prosecutors said.

Separated

The five Indian nationals, who appeared to be headed to an unstaffed gas plant in St Vincent, Minnesota, told law enforcement officials that they had expected to be picked up by someone, prosecutors said. They said that they had been walking for more than 11 hours and had crossed the border from Canada into the United States, prosecutors said.

One member of the group said he was carrying a backpack for a family of four Indian citizens who had become separated from his group during the night, court documents said. Inside the backpack were children’s clothes, a diaper, toys and children’s medication.

Canadian authorities then began a search with snowmobiles and all-terrain vehicles that led to the discovery of the four bodies in Manitoba. One Indian woman in the group that had survived the crossing into the United States stopped breathing several times while she was being transported by the Border Patrol, court documents showed. She was flown to a hospital where she will likely require partial amputation of one of her hands because of exposure to the extreme cold, the documents stated.

Court

Prosecutors said Mr Shand made his first appearance on Thursday in US District Court for the District of Minnesota, where he was ordered to remain in custody until a hearing on Monday. It was not immediately clear if he had a lawyer. In a criminal complaint, a special agent with Homeland Security Investigations said that the four deaths were being investigated “along with an investigation into a larger human smuggling operation of which Shand is suspected of being a part”.

According to the complaint, a Border Patrol agent said he knew of three other smuggling operations that happened in the place where Mr Shand was arrested. Two were in December and one was earlier this month, according to the complaint.

The complaint states that one of the Indian citizens detained on Wednesday said that he had paid a “significant amount” of money to enter Canada from India with a fraudulently obtained student visa. The man said he had walked across the border into the United States and had expected to be picked up by someone who would take him to his uncle’s house in Chicago.

Ms MacLatchy said she had a message for anyone who was thinking of crossing the international border in Manitoba: “Just don’t do it.”

“Do not listen to anyone who tells you they can get you to your destination safely,” she said. “They cannot. Even with proper clothing, it is not a journey that is possible.” – This article originally appeared in the New York Times

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