On 14th June 2017, along with the rest of the UK, I watched the horrific scenes of the terrible fire raging through the apartment block Grenfell Tower in London, which killed 72 people.
The fire had likely been started by a faulty fridge-freezer but it was the insulating cladding material on the outside of the building – supposedly having passed stringent fire safety tests – which was found to be flammable and instead of slowing down the spread of flames, actually contributed to the rapid spread of the fire.
Questions were asked and it became evident that Grenfell Tower’s flammable cladding was not an isolated case and that many other buildings in the UK incorporated this unsafe material.
The government deemed that all resident apartment buildings were to be made safe and any dangerous cladding material had to be removed.
With a sense of dread, I wondered if my own property, the flat I let out to tenants was affected.
Well, it’s taken 3 years for me to find out.
Wonder No More
I can’t say I was too surprised when I received a letter from the building management agents confirming that my property did not comply with the new government fire safety guidelines. If property developers can get away with using cheaper materials, they will.
What did surprise me was that the costs to become compliant would fall entirely on us leaseholders of the property.
The freeholders will pay nothing.
The service fees which I pay have been increased to include the cost of two fire wardens who patrol the perimeter of the building 24/7. These patrols will continue until the building has been made safe.
I guess that’s some small consolation to people like my tenants who have been living in a potentially unsafe building all this time.
I’ve read articles where leaseholders have been told that costs could amount to over £40,000 each – of course each property will be different (eg depending on the number of floors etc) but this could put a MASSIVE dent in my FIRE plans. Could this even signal the end to my FIRE plans?
But ‘help’ is at hand…
The government has established a Private Sector Cladding Remediation Fund to help cover the cost of replacing the unsafe cladding – the building management agents have made an application on our behalf so we await approval for our share of the fund.
However, who knows if it will be enough, even if we are successful?
The unsafe materials must be removed and replaced as a necessity but any costs over and above the fund allocation will be footed by the leaseholders. By me.
I await the estimated replacement costs with some trepidation.
Note that from a money aspect, I will ultimately be fine and it won’t be the end of the world for me. Yes, forking out tens of thousands of pounds will set me back majorly in my plans but is not going to bankrupt me or anything like that because I have savings and investments to fall back on. Being on the FIRE path has meant that I’m in a far better financial place to deal with the unexpected.
I’m also not looking to imminently sell my property (without the required fire safety certificate, I’d only be able to sell to a cash buyer in any case, who would be in a strong bargaining position) and not looking to re-mortgage my property (lenders would not currently touch me with a barge pole).
From a safety point of view however, I couldn’t imagine living somewhere which was not safe and having to worry about it on a daily basis, like some others.
It’s looking increasingly likely that my plans will be impacted but I guess I’ll just deal with it when I know what it is that I have to deal with.
Any other leaseholders being affected by this?