This is a guest article by Lee Lawrence. All views expressed are Lee’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.
If the last year has taught us anything about the communities we live in, it might just be that we’re stronger as a collective unit. Neighbours came together and a community of volunteers ignited a sense of pride and togetherness amongst the dread.
As parts of the country begin to re-open this year, for some communities the pressure has only increased.
Skyline Plaza in Southend-On-Sea, Essex, is a modest block of flats. Slightly rough around the edges, but home to a great community of nurses, teachers, builders and keyworkers: decent hard-working families. I moved into the block in 2018 with my wife and two young children and we quickly settled into our new home.
Last year we were told that the building’s cladding needed to be replaced after a sample was taken and tested following the horrific Grenfell fire tragedy. The deadline for the funding was nearly up but we were lucky to have a great team of residents who work on the Right to Manage (RTM) company in tandem with our property manager. They were able to that would spare us from potentially unaffordable costs.
Things were starting to look up for the residents until our buildings insurance was due for renewal.
While insurance has been for buildings caught up in the country’s ongoing cladding scandal, as reported by Which?, nothing could have prepared us for the news we were about to receive: just one company was even prepared to give us a quote, and that quote was in excess of £240,000.
For context, last year’s premium was just over £11,000: that’s nearly a 2,000% increase in just a single year. That means that every resident here will need to find between £4,000 and £6,000 each on top of our usual annual service charge.
This exorbitant amount needs to be paid upfront and in full. With most of the building consisting of low-income families this will be a struggle for most and impossible for others.
I work in Southend as a support worker housing people who have become street homeless – it crossed my mind that my next client could be someone from our block or another affected building in the area.
We’re extremely fortunate to have had our cladding works accepted for funding while other buildings have not been so lucky, but in the meantime we need to fund a linked fire alarm system to negate the need for a for the length of the works. This would cost another £300-£500 per flat.
We cannot afford to keep paying like this – eventually there’ll be nothing left.
The community of Skyline has come together again so far to spread the word of the awful predicament that many homeowners have found themselves in through no fault of their own.
We’re attempting to use the collective power of our communities to make a stand and voice this abomination to the people who have the power to change things. This can’t carry on, and we need help.
This was a guest article by Lee Lawrence. All views expressed were Lee’s own and not necessarily shared by Which?.