Five years on from the Grenfell tragedy homeowners across the country still find themselves trapped in unsellable and potentially unsafe properties.
In the wake of the deadly blaze which claimed 72 lives in 2017 a public inquiry laid bare the extent of flammable cladding and fire safety defects in thousands of homes.
It sparked a series of changes to the law in an attempt to put right the failings and ensure the safety of people in fire-risk buildings.
Initially homeowners in affected apartment blocks were told to hand over life-changing sums because their flats could go up in flames, even though the government claimed many low-rise buildings posed “no systemic risk”.
But a policy shift in January saw the onus shifted onto property developers to fork out the estimated £4bn cost of remedial works as part of a "polluter pays" approach.
However, nine months on people still remain unsure of their position and are trapped in flats they either cannot sell or remortgage as a result of the cladding crisis.
KentOnline has spoken to homeowners at two affected blocks of apartments in Dartford, who are still fighting for answers.
Emily Abbott and her husband Chris, both 31, took their first step onto the property ladder in 2011, moving into Cambria Court, part of Thames Waterside, a Fairview New Homes development in Greenhithe.
They purchased their leasehold flat in Station Road as part of a shared ownership scheme operated by housing association Optivo.
However, like several other residents, they have been unable to sell their property since being issued a EWS1 form in July 2020 which shows all blocks need remediation works.
Such forms were introduced following the Grenfell fire disaster to prove to lenders that cladding on residential buildings is safe.
The forms require an appropriate professional to confirm the checks have been completed. Without a signed EWS1 homeowners cannot sell as their properties are valued at "zero".
Emily says the process and an overall lack of communication has had a detrimental effect on the mental health of residents and has left many feeling "like they are talking to a brick wall".
Since putting their third-floor apartment on the market in August 2020 the couple have seen three sales collapse due to the EWS1 form.
"This whole thing has been very poorly managed and has left us in a really difficult position," she said.
"We worked really hard to build up our savings and want to start a family but we have been delayed for extra years now"
The marketing manager and her husband Chris, who works in finance, have also incurred expenses of nearly £8,000 trying to sell their flat.
Most recently, they forked out £5,000 to extend the lease at the behest of a potential buyer only for the deal to fall through once again.
"We are mortgage prisoners with no way out," Emily added. "It is crazy because we did all the right things but the bureaucracy is keeping us here."
Emily says some sales are going through but they are happening for a very small minority who have managed to find cash buyers.
When requesting an update on the progress of remedial works Emily claims the management companies choose to "bury their heads in the sand" and even "gaslight" residents over concerns.
"They just push us onto someone else," she adds. "They say they are trying but no one is really doing anything."
Both Optivo and Churchill Management say they are doing "everything they can to keep residents safe" and are regularly offering updates to residents.
But the couple are not alone with many others feeling stuck and unable to move on with their lives.
Mollie-Rose Cowin moved into her two-bed flat in the neighbouring Hibernia block in April 2020 at the outset of the pandemic, which is managed by Gravesend-based agents Churchill Estates & Management.
"It is crazy because we did all the right things but the bureaucracy is keeping us here."
The 26-year-old saved up for a deposit to purchase her own home outright but says she was not informed of potential defects during the purchase.
"If I had known I would not have purchased the property," the bank worker said.
"My plan long term is to rent out this flat and buy a place with my partner," she said. "But at the moment I can't do this without the remediation works."
Meanwhile, Mollie says the delays are now indirectly costing her another £200 a month due to increases in her mortgage payments.
The first-time buyer says she has repeatedly asked for updates from both the management companies and the developer but has been largely kept in the dark.
"People's lives are being put on hold," she adds. "They are all passing the buck and won't confirm anything in writing."
The exact number of properties affected in Kent has not been confirmed.
In January, then Housing Secretary Michael Gove said he would make developers pay up to £4bn for the removal of unsafe cladding.
The Building Safety Act, which was enacted in April this year, is intended to build in further protections for qualifying leaseholders to absolve them of all costs associated with cladding remedial works.
A Department for Levelling Up spokesperson told KentOnline: “Building owners with properties between 11 and 18 metres must comply with the law and front up costs to fix their unsafe buildings, and we expect them to work quickly.
“Experts widely recognise that low-rise buildings are unlikely to need costly remediation, but it is the building owner’s responsibility to ensure their properties are safe.”
The government department added that assessments under a new fire risk appraisal standard will make clear that buildings below 11m are "highly unlikely to need costly remediation work".
So far more than 35 housebuilders have committed to fixing unsafe cladding on all medium and high-rise buildings, taller than 11m (36ft). While currently voluntary, it is to become legally enforceable.
Optivo holds leases for both Cambria Court (under 11 metres) and Hibernia Court (over 11 metres) in Greenhithe but says it is not responsible for the maintenance and upkeep of the external walls in either building.
According to residents, Optivo set out expectations in May via a resident's Zoom call they would receive an official update the progress of repairs funded by the original developers, Fairview.
Works are expected to be completed by the end of the year but neighbours say they have been given no timescales.
Churchill Estates property manager Mark Kybert says the situation is incredibly complex and the company is doing all it can.
Mr Kybert sayt he understands resident's frustrations and attributes problems with sales to banks and lenders, adding failings are in large part due to governmental oversight.
"It has been handled so badly," he said. "It is mindblowing incompetence by everyone, especially the government."
"We’ll do everything we can to keep our residents safe in their building."
"I feel for the people involved. We have done everything we can to try and help them."
"We are a small management company who has been trying to work with the developers to deal with it. But we can't magic things."
A spokesman for Optivo said: "We will take all appropriate action, including by legal means, to ensure those responsible are meeting their obligations for any remediation works required.
"We’ll do everything we can to keep our residents safe in their building.
"We understand the importance of good communication and have already arranged a virtual meeting with residents next Wednesday (September 14) to provide the latest update.
"We’d encourage any resident within these buildings looking to sell their home to contact us first before incurring any fees."
Fairview did not respond to a request for comment.