‘I’m afraid for her mental health’: mother of cladding scandal victim set to refinance home to cover bill

Anne Smith’s daughter could lose her home and her career as a result of a massive bill for remediation works to her leasehold property

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Anne Smith, 65, has been having sleepless nights recently.

Her daughter is caught up in the ongoing building safety scandal, as her leasehold home in Salford has been deemed unsafe due to exterior cladding and a number of other design flaws.

Despite purchasing the property less than a decade ago for around £75,000, the bill she is expected to pay will likely amount to more than £50,000.

Until then, she will have to pay increased insurance premiums, and the property will be unsellable.

Speaking to NationalWorld, Anne said: “My daughter said to me around a year ago that she was worried about getting this big bill, and at the time I said ‘no that can’t be right, it’s not your fault’.

“Then she received a Section-20 notice, for the external cladding on the wall and the balcony. The estimate is £46,000.

“They said she could fund it by adding the amount to her mortgage, approach her bank for a loan or make a 10-month instalment plan, which would amount to almost £5,000 per month.”

Jane* who is in her 30s and works in finance, is facing the prospect of bankruptcy as a result, which would also see her lose her job.

If she is unable to pay, not only will she lose her job, she could also lose her home, which the freeholder would be entitled to claim back.

This would leave her jobless and homeless, though she would likely still be held liable for both her mortgage and the bill for a property she would no longer have any stake in.

Leaseholders do not technically own the properties they purchase, but instead lease them from freeholders, who own the building.

Despite owning the buildings and having often commissioned the work which has now rendered the homes at risk and unsellable, the responsibility for remediation works currently falls on the leaseholders.

Now there are hundreds of thousands of people like Jane around the country who are left in homes deemed unsafe, facing massive bills through no fault of their own.

‘I can’t allow her to go bankrupt’

“I’m worried about my daughter’s mental health, it’s really been affected by this,” says Anne, “She wakes up in the middle of the night thinking about money and how she’s going to fund it. She has no way of funding it.”

Anne and her daughter have spent the last year trying first to understand the crisis they’ve found themselves caught up in, and then working out whether there are any solutions available.

Anne says she will almost certainly have to release equity from her own home, having only finished paying off her mortgage this year, to try and prevent her daughter’s “life being ruined”.

“I’ve looked into equity release, and it’s something I might have to do because I can’t allow her to go bankrupt. It’s ridiculous, I just finished my mortgage last month, and now I’m looking at equity release.

“I’ve got things I wanted to do to my house that I can’t do now, because all the money I have is now sitting waiting to see what this bill is going to be. I’m saving every penny I can, not spending, because I need to try and build up a fund to help her.

“I’m lucky to be able to offer some support to my daughter, but that’s not going to be the case for a lot of people, who will be left with nothing.”

Like many leaseholders and people close to them who’ve been impacted by the crisis, Anne has decided to do everything she can to draw attention to the issue and campaign for a better solution.

‘I’m not optimistic that this government will resolve it’

She has even more of an obligation to do so, she says, as her daughter is unable to,  because of the nature of her work.

She said: “I’ve never been political in my life, but I am now. I’m going to be travelling from Scotland to London for the cladding protest, and it’ll be the first time I’ve ever protested anything in my life.

“That’s how angry this has made me.”

And while many campaigners on the issue are keen to stress that it is not party political, with supportive MPs to be found in all the parties, Anne says this government’s failure to solve the problem will cost them her vote, at the least.

“This will definitely be at the forefront of my mind next time I go into a voting booth, and I’m sure my daughter’s. This problem stretches back across different governments, but it’s this government right now that is failing to act; they’re not doing anything.”

“I’m not optimistic that this government will resolve it. It feels to me like they’re not going to do anything about it because they take so many donations from developers and builders.”

For Anne, it is the unfairness of the whole issue which causes the most frustration.

“It just can’t be right, ‘’ she says, “ that my daughter will be asked to pay more toward the cost of these remediations than the people that commissioned and carried out the work, or who actually own the property.”

A spokesperson for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government said: “We’ve been clear throughout that owners and industry should make buildings safe without passing costs on to leaseholders – and our new measures will introduce a legal requirement for owners of high-rise buildings to prove they have tried all routes to cover the cost of fixing their buildings.

“This is on top of our £5 billion fund to fix unsafe cladding in the highest risk buildings and our government-backed scheme that will mean leaseholders in buildings between 11 and 18 metres will pay no more than £50 a month for these costs.

“We will also ensure that the industry help to fund the costs of fixing historical safety defects including unsafe cladding on high-rise buildings.”

*Names have been changed to protect the individual’s identity