Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you’ve heard of the cladding horror.
I’ve read enough and heard enough heart-breaking stories to know cladding is truly the scourge of the housing market. People have been left with homes that are effectively dangerous and worthless, and they are trapped in them.
It is horrifying how this happened or even been allowed to happen.
So being the prudent person that I am, I risk-assessed the leaseholds owned a couple of years ago. I was relieved to see the buildings were not classified as tall (high risk), and knowing I didn’t own in any tower-blocks (old or modern) gave me some small comfort.
Over the last three years I’ve seen management agents toughen up on fire regulations (a good thing), and I’ve upgraded various doors and contributed towards various changes which meant we complied.
So it was with terror, and I mean terror, that I opened a letter from a managing agent to inform me they were investigating cladding at a building where I own a leasehold flat. They had organised a survey and they would let me know in due course.
My first move?
Straight onto the property details. Scanning all over the property, all I could see was a small section, some four metres by five metres of decorative timber work, above the archway to the carpark.
Phew, I said to myself, that must be what they’re referring to.
But then my mind decided to catastrophize. Because, you know, in these sort of situations this type of thinking is helpful. Not.
Cue the rabbit warren of the internet.
It is a dangerous place to be.
Especially, when you’re searching for the latest updates on cladding. I learned:
- There’s no longer a vertical height restriction (previously only buildings of over 18 metres and 11 metres were deemed to be at risk).
- To sell a property, even if it hasn’t got cladding, you need an EW1S form and there is a huge delay on getting these surveys.
- Without an EW1S form you will struggle to get a mortgage (although there were some changes to government policy, but it wasn’t clear lenders were fully on-board).
- Even if you get an EW1S form the value in some cases was being set at zero.
- The cost of putting-right works was enormous.
And as you’ll know when you search on the net, a little bit of knowledge is dangerous. You soon think yourself an expert, when clearly you’re not.
And so I found myself watching a YouTube video on how to identify cladding on a building.
Cut onset of sicky tummy.
You see, prior to watching this video, I had believed we had concrete painted rendering on the outside of our two-storey built block. But now, with my internet expert hat on, I started to wonder if that was actually the case.
Was it in fact polystyrene?
Was my flat clad in flammable materials?
Would it need to be removed at huge cost?
What should I do?
My mind went into overdrive as I compared and contrasted various schemes from stories I found online and searched through the bills people had received. They were eye-watering. I’m talking six-figure sums.
And so I started making some notes to try and figure out how much of a bill it would be…And before you know it, questions and costs started spiralling.
So then I decided to search through the planning documents of the building and see if there was anything there about the materials used. Alas, given it was built in the 1980s there was nothing available online.
So I called my friend for advice. And he told me to call the managing agents.
Good call and dumb move I hadn’t thought of the obvious before.
So I call the agents to discover I, like many other owners, had called in rather panicked. They apologised profusely for the ‘lack of specificity’ of the letter and explained the survey was just for the timber clad area.
Relief flooded through me.
I know I’ve been lucky. This cladding scandal has only just begun.