Solicitor Cassandra Zanelli has been challenged over evidence she presented to the Welsh Assembly over who will pay to remove Grenfell cladding at private blocks of flats.
Miss Zanelli, who was representing the Federation of Private Residents Associations as an “honorary consultant” at a session on September 27, told a committee of the Assembly that leaseholders were taking out loans to pay for cladding removal.
The evidence has been challenged by Martin Boyd, LKP chair, who is also an “honorary consultant” of the FPRA, but unlike her is not a commercial practitioner in the sector.
Mr Boyd strongly disputed Ms Zanelli’s claim that mortgage lenders have issued loans to remove cladding.
Assembly Member Bethan Sayed asked Ms Zanelli who is paying to remove the cladding.
Ms Zanelli replied: “It depends on the blocks. Some blocks have proper reserve funds and the works are being taken from that reserve fund. Leaseholders are not feeling the immediate pinch of it, but the funds are being depleted. At some point, they will have to pay back into the fund.
“Others are taking loans out to cover costs. They are taking extra out on mortgages; or payment arrangements with landlords and their agents, so they can pay over a staged process.
“There is a variety of different things out there happening in practice.”
Mr Boyd has attempted to raise the matter three times with Miss Zanelli, but without response.
He has now raised the matter with the Welsh Assembly committee chair Assembly Member John Griffiths.
“From our knowledge across both England and Wales this does not represent the position that applies on most sites. At best, some sites with a small amount of cladding have been able to fund the remedial works via the reserve fund. However, for the vast bulk of sites with a large quantity of cladding the work remains outstanding and the liability for costs remains under dispute.
“The evidence that comes to us from both leaseholders and mortgage lenders sets out the opposite position to that proposed by Ms Zanelli.
“As far as we are aware, no mortgage lenders are currently willing to offer additional loans on what they see as an impaired asset.”
LKP has been informed that Guernsey-registered Abacus Land 4 Limited, part of the Long Harbour group headed by Will Astor, that funds have been advanced to leaseholders through their service charge account at Heysmoor Heights in Liverpool. This money is to pay the immediate bills for the waking watch.
A tribunal has also ruled that leaseholders should pay to remove the Grenfell cladding.
Mr Boyd, who organised and chaired the All Party Parliamentary Group meeting of leaseholders with Grenfell cladding in July, also questioned why Ms Zanelli believed leaseholders at Grenfell cladding sites do not engage with the issue, or seek assistance.
“Our experience is very much the opposite. The cladding site leaseholders are quite literally desperate for information and obviously want sight of those documents produced by the fire brigade or the fire risk assessors.
“Many, however, see the managing agent as a messenger for the landlord, wishing to pass on costs to them even though everyone accepts that the leaseholder is not responsible for this defective cladding having been installed.”
Mr Boyd added:
“We are disappointed that Ms Zanelli, as a representative of residents’ associations, failed to mention the fact that too many landlords and their agents are still putting barriers in the way of residents groups being formed on cladding sites. This needs to stop.”