At least 20 private blocks affected
Bills for fire marshals at one site have reached £16,000 a week
Leaseholders in the Citiscape block of flats in Croydon face a £750,000 – £1 million bill to remove the same insulation cladding involved in the Grenfell Tower fire.
Two fire marshals are employed 24/7 at £5,000 a week to keep a vigil on the 97 flats in Frith Road, where the freeholder is Proxima GR, part of the Tchenguiz Family Trust entities ultimately based in the British Virgin Islands.
In total £20,000 a month is being spent on fire marshals with another £3,000 on car parking as one level of the car park is now unusable.
At other private sites in London the bills are even higher: £16,000 a week in one case.
FirstPort, which manages Citiscape, has alerted the leaseholders to a £500,000 cash call and wants to go to tribunal for a ruling that this is correct.
Indeed, a demand for £5,000 was issued and paid by direct debit by some leaseholders before it was retracted.
What FirstPort seeks to avoid is any cost to itself or the freeholder before liability is established.
FirstPort, which changed its name from Peverel (the criticisms of LKP and Carlex, now www.BetterRetirementHousing.com played their part), was owned by the Tchenguiz interests, which meant they managed their own freeholds.
This happy state of affairs ended with the wrongful arrests of Vincent and Robert Tchenguiz in March 2011 by the Serious Fraud Office. This pitched the company into administration and it now belongs to venture capitalists Chamonix and Electra.
LKP is assisting the leaseholders at Citiscape, who do not as yet have a recognised tenants association. Although 46 leaseholders have formed a group the FirstPort executive on the ground has said that a tribunal process will be required before it is recognised.
Under the circumstances, LKP would argue that normal game-playing obstructiveness be avoided in this case and that the residents’ association be recognised as soon as possible.
The block was built in 2002 by Barratt, and the cladding was signed off as safe. It is now deemed unsafe by fire safety and must come down.
There may be some public liability owing to the inconsistent regulations.
Meanwhile, there is common interest for the leaseholders and FirstPort to resolve matters and get the works started as soon as possible.
Works are likely to take 18 to 24 months; none of the leaseholders believe that £500,000 will cover the total cost, and there is only £35,000 in the reserve fund.
Sales at the sight are stalled, although at least two flats are on the market.
Until the cladding issue was raised – two weeks after the Grenfell fire – one-bed flats at Citiscape sold for around £265,000.
Residents at one of the five Croydon properties with cladding which did not pass the government’s fire safety test have been told to not stay put anymore if a blaze breaks out. The names of remaining four buildings which have failed cladding tests after the Grenfell Tower fire have not been released publicly until the Advertiser asked the council this week.