This is a guest post by Sam Williams. All views expressed are Sam’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
I think ‘helpless’ sums up the feelings of millions of leaseholders up and down the country – we all face an uncertain future due to a change in regulations which led to the creation of the External Wall Survey (EWS1) forms.
Leaseholders across East Village, Stratford are no different. East Village, formerly London’s 2012 Olympic Village provided accommodation for around 24,000 athletes during the Olympic Games.
In 2014, the village was transformed to provide residential properties creating 2,818 new homes, including 1,379 affordable homes and houses, for sale and rent.
Of the 1,379 homes made available through affordable housing schemes, almost all leaseholders in East Village purchased a share of a lease through shared ownership or shared equity schemes.
After years of tireless saving, these were the first exciting steps we made onto the property market. Property ownership is seen as an aspiration – all of us leaseholders in East Village thought we were doing the right thing by making a home here.
But that exciting step has now unravelled into a living nightmare. We are trapped. Prisoners in our own home.
Every building signed off by qualified professionals, of which there’s a shortage, to allow them to move on with their lives. Be that selling their share of their lease, staircasing to increase their share, or remortgaging to a more competitive rate.
All of this came to an abrupt halt when the EWS1 process was introduced.
There are 65 residential apartment blocks across East Village, of which 25 blocks contain leaseholders. Every single one of these blocks will require an EWS1 approval before people can move on with their lives. Leaseholders across these 25 blocks continue to wait for intrusive external wall surveys to take place.
Even once the survey is complete, it could just be the beginning – if defects are found then remediation must take place which, depending on the scale, could trap us for many more years.
Across East Village, leaseholders are waiting for updates in the knowledge that at any moment we may receive the letter that confirms our worst nightmare: being liable for 100% of the costs of the remediaton where our freeholders are unable to recover those costs through warranties, the courts or insurance.
For somebody that owns a 25% share of a 125-year lease, that is truly scandalous.
This is set against the backdrop that 11 of the blocks here contain Aluminium Composite Material (ACM) cladding – the same cladding that contributed to the Grenfell tragedy.
Three years on from the disaster, it’s still yet to be removed.
Residents here in East Village didn’t construct these buildings. We didn’t sign them off as safe, and we don’t own the external walls, yet, like so many others, we face being billed to make them safe.
We are desperate, and a solution must be found to allow us to move on with our lives.
This was a guest post by Sam Williams. All views expressed were Sam’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.