‘They only understand money’: Why leaseholders are organising a wave of protests against property developers

People stuck in unsafe homes, facing massive bills, through no fault of their own because of the cladding scandal want to ‘hit the developers where it hurts’

‘They only understand money’: Why leaseholders are organising a wave of protests against property developers (Photo by Dan Kitwood/Getty Images)

Thousands of people impacted by the cladding scandal are set to protest all over the country in a bid to “hit the developers where it hurts... their future sales”.

Targeted protests and marches will take place across the UK next week, while a national rally will take place in the capital on July 15.

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‘People were starting to feel like there’s nothing we can do’

Leaseholders will go on a series of show room protests next weekend, on Sunday 5 June (Photo: End Our Cladding Scandal)

Having lived in a leasehold flat since 2018, Joana was already aware of the cladding scandal when she and other residents of her building in east London were told their properties had the lowest fire safety rating.

While they are yet to receive a full quote, the work required is expected to cost at least £2500 which each leaseholder in the building will be liable for, rather than the developer, who campaigners feel should be held responsible.

Speaking to NationalWorld in April, a leaseholder in Manchester summed up the issue, saying “As a leaseholder I don’t own it, I didn’t design it, I didn’t build it, I didn’t sign off on it; but I’ve got the bill to pay?”.

Now, after the government has consistently failed to back amendments to legislation which would support leaseholders - they are taking matters into their own hands

Speaking to NationalWorld, Joana, who has been involved with organising a series of protests on 5 June, said: “People were starting to feel like there’s nothing we can do except do something directly”.

She added: “For leaseholders wherever you turn you get a slap in the face, people are receiving bills for £30,000 for £50,000, we know that we are getting off relatively lightly, although it is still not right for us to have to pay.

“But we are in a much better situation than a lot of other people.”

After initially organising a protest against the developer of their building, their campaign started receiving interest from people all over the UK impacted by the issue.

Joana says it is testament to how widespread this issue is that in a relatively short amount of time so many people who, like her, have no previous experience with activism or protest have organised themselves and set up large campaigning networks.

With help from the National Leasehold Campaign, End Our Cladding Scandal and UK Cladding Action Group, she says, “we came up with the idea to have multiple local protests on the same day in several places.”

There are at least nine protests set to take place in Birmingham, Southend, Cardiff, Ipswich and “at least four” in London - with more likely to be organised.

NationalWorld can also reveal that an as yet unannounced protest is likely to take place in Manchester, where there is a relatively high concentration of leaseholders impacted by the cladding, or building safety, scandal.

‘We believe the developers only understand money’

Some of the protests on 5 June will be directly targeted at new house showroom sites owned by developers involved with the cladding scandal.

Others will be general protests aimed at attracting media attention and increasing public awareness.

“We’re not going to heckle anyone or anything like that,” says Joana, “but we will hand out leaflets explaining why we’re there and why people should be wary of these developers.”

Among the developers to be targeted are some of the UK’s biggest house building and construction firms, including Taylor Wimpey, Western Homes, Red Row, Countryside Homes, Ballymore and Barratt Homes.

The purpose of the targeted protests, according to campaigners, is to ‘hit the developers where it hurts… their future sales.”

Joana says: “Developers are very sure of themselves, and the government in our point of view is supporting them.

“We believe that from the perspective of the developer it doesn’t really matter if you protest somewhere else, so we’re doing this because we believe the developers only understand money.

“They are multi-million pound companies, and nothing else talks to them other than damage to their bottom line or their reputation.”

‘Long term, it has to be about regulation’

There will also be a protest on the 15 July outside parliament, on the day of an all-party parliamentary cladding group meeting.

This protest will be more aimed at urging the government into action than directly targeting developers, because campaigners believe ultimately the government must act to help existing leaseholders and make sure these problems can’t happen again.

She said: “Long term it has to be about regulation. Arguably the government made it worse. For a lot of people the situation has gotten worse because of all these factors which mean they can’t do anything; move, remortgage, sell - apart from paying thousands of pounds!”