A 26-year-old flat owner is faced with an invoice for more than £100,000 after being told she had to pay for repairs to dangerous cladding and fire safety defects.
Emilie Boswell lives in a two-bedroom flat in Leeds Dock, which has been caught up in the cladding scandal where homeowners can face six-figure sums for such work to be carried out. She paid £180,000 for the flat in May 2018.
She opened the email from her management company about her service charge and first saw confirmation of her quarterly service charge of £700.
But the next line was for an earth-shatteringly amount of £101,267.63, said to be for ‘external wall remediation 2021-22’.
Emilie Boswell received an invoice for repairs for dangerous cladding and fire safety defects for a massive £101,267.63
Emilie bought her first home in 2018, and had a fire safety report commissioned that stated it did not have any obvious evidence of cladding
We spoke exclusively to Miss Boswell, who revealed: ‘I was in a state of shock at first when I first found out. I never expected that it was going to such a big amount.
‘I broke down to my family. It was just a feeling of utter helplessness. It is so unfair as I did my due diligence.’
She bought the flat in 2018, after the Grenfell fire disaster, and had a fire safety report commissioned by the management firm that stated it did not have any obvious evidence of cladding.
But in 2019 – after she had moved in – she was then told that her block of flats did in fact have cladding, at which point a waking watch started.
This involves paying someone to walk around the block checking for signs of fire and sounding the alarm if a fire starts.
From November 2019, she was charged £67 a month for the waking watch, which was stopped in August this year. There are 181 flats on the site, and her block is above 18 metres high.
She added: ‘I am the innocent person here, I haven’t done anything wrong. It is just so massively unfair.
‘The Government doesn’t want to know just how big of a problem this is. It is scared to know just how big it is.’
The cladding issue became a national scandal following the fire at Grenfell four years ago.
This brought to light the problems with cladding on buildings and since then many homeowners have been left in unsafe homes that are almost impossible to sell as lenders refuse to provide funding to potential buyers.
A national multi-billion dollar Building Safety Fund was set up to help those affected, applying to those in buildings above 18 metres high.
Miss Boswell explained: ‘We’ve been told we don’t have to pay this money right this second – as if we’re in a position to pay it anyway – because our Building Safety Fund application is still underway.
‘But it had to be included in our service charge bill for the coming year in case we do not get any funding. We already know that two of the materials – brickwork and tiling with no fire breaks beneath – and our balconies are not eligible for funding.’
Emilie pictured on the balcony on the day she picked up the keys to her new flat in May 2018
She added: ‘It all hangs in the balance of what funding we get. But our freeholder is currently refusing to sign the contract that would finalise our application under instruction from its solicitors. It is all a bit of a mess.
‘In the meantime, our management firm has now issued an invoice for the full amount as part of the service charge bill.’
She received the service charge invoice as normal by email, while a letter warning her that she did not have to pay anything at this stage arrived by post several days earlier.
The deadline for applications to the Building Safety Fund was originally at the end of last year, but this was first pushed back to March this year and then last month, which is also the last point for any remediation works to start.
A spokesperson for the Department for Levelling UP, Housing & Communities, said: ‘The Government is absolutely clear that building owners must take swift action to fix dangerous cladding.
‘We do not want anyone to miss out on the support we are providing through the Building Safety Fund and have been flexible to ensure those who need this funding get it.
‘We have already given Mackenzie House over £400,000 and are working with the building’s owners to ensure they can access further funding to make the building safe as quickly as possible.’