Some sites caught up in the combustible cladding scandal have seen their insurance costs soar from £40,000 to £200,000, the UK Cladding Action Group told a meeting at London City Hall on February 6.
“This is the next thing that is exploding,” said Ritu Saha, founder of UKCAG. “Insurance premiums have tripled and I am aware of a couple of buildings where it has gone up five times: from £40,000 to £200,000 premium in a year for people who are already struggling with waking watch bills, with recladding bills and everything else.”
The message from UKCAG is that sites with Grenfell-style ACM (aluminium composite material cladding) are not in the clear when it comes to costs.
Will Martin, co-founder of UKCAG and a medical student who lives in a Sheffield ACM site, said:
“It is really important for those of you that have ACM cladding not sit back and think ‘everything is sorted by the government fund’. Because at the moment as you can see seven months on from the announcement of this fund no one is sorted and there are lots of questions what it will cover.
“We have concerns about the fund itself as it is only £200 million. It doesn’t take a mathematician to work out how much it will cost to reclad each building and how many buildings need recladding. And there is no guidance from the government on this. What happens when a building costs £3 million and the government has actually said you can only have £2 million? Who pays for it then?”
Mr Martin asked the meeting, which was attended by 148 leaseholders from 83 cladding sites, how many of the leaseholders present were paying for waking watch: there was a sea of hands.
“Everybody is paying for waking watches. Everybody is paying paying to make the building safe. Everybody is having to pay raise service charges. Everybody is having to pay increased insurance and on top of that management companies are having the audacity to say: ‘You know what guys: we are going to charge you to apply for the fund.’
“My management company is saying that this is above and beyond what they normally have to do, so it is going to charge 1.5% on top just to apply for the fund.”
Ritu Saha said there had been a complete falloff of dealing with government since July 2019, when Boris Johnson became prime minister.
Before that, she had met Kit Malthouse, housing minister, and James Brokenshire, Communities Secretary.
“But since then there has been absolutely no contact with government at all.”
Another disturbing point was that in late November Leeds fire rescue service started giving ultimatums to blocks to come up with plans to fix their blocks “otherwise they would be pretty much thrown out of their homes”.
Ritu praised the actions of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership in organising Westminster meetings over cladding, Inside Housing for its brilliant campaigning and the “three wonderful ladies” in the National Leasehold Campaign for highlighting the issues around cladding in private blocks.
Meanwhile, BBC London News ran a special report – featuring Ritu – on the cladding crisis: