Published: 16:04, 30 April 2021
| Updated: 21:11, 30 April 2021
A woman being forced to pay for repairs to make her fire-risk flat safe says the government passing costs on to owners is pushing her anxiety to an "all-time high".
The controversial Fire Safety Bill was passed and made into law by the government on Wednesday night after attempts in the House of Lords to make amendments to protect leaseholders failed.
But for Krystie Saunders, who lives in a shared-ownership apartment in Erith Park, near Dartford, the costs of repairing the issues to bring them up to standards has left her feeling angry and let down.
She had been hoping to sell her flat to buy a place with her boyfriend but now says she is trapped in an unsafe home which she cannot sell.
"In regards to it being made law that we have to foot the bill, I personally think that it’s disgusting," she told KentOnline. "No one would have put money into a flat knowing it wasn’t fire safe.
"We have unknowingly bought properties not safe to live in. The fact that the companies who built these have no consequences whatsoever and are being allowed to pass these charges on to leaseholders rather than being made to pay them is a slap in the face.
"I actually do suffer with anxiety and it’s currently at an all-time high. The property I live in isn’t deemed fire safe.
"All my money is in this property which I can now not sell. We are not being given any information on timescales or costs."
The Erith Park development, built by developers Orbit, was completed in 2018 with 587 mixed tenure new homes.
Krystie said she is "literally stuck" and described the situation as like "being a prisoner in your own home" with no idea about how much repairs will be or whether it will be affordable.
The government has said it will be setting up a scheme where leaseholders can pay back £50 per month but with the cost of work per flat expected to run into thousands, it is a financial hangover first-time buyers like Krystie will be living with for years to come.
She added: "What if we literally can’t afford to pay it? Will I even be able to sell my flat after this, with everything that’s going on will people want to buy one after this?"
Leaseholders have reported struggles in getting help from property management companies, landlords, developers and local authorities up and down the country.
Meanwhile, others fear the scandal is set to lead to a mental health crisis.
Lenders have refused to offer mortgages on affected properties leaving homeowners unable to sell or remortgage their properties until the suitable External Wall System (EWS) certificates are obtained.
The bill, which was drafted in the wake of the tragedy at Grenfell Tower, became law despite Prime Minister Boris Johnson facing a Tory backbench rebellion over the plans to not provide protection for all homeowners.
It means all leaseholders in blocks less than 18m will have to front the costs for all remedial work.
A government fund has been established for buildings taller than 18m but it is estimated the pot will cover only about a third of the buildings affected around the country.
The exact number of properties affected in Kent has not been confirmed and it is not only tower blocks in towns which are impacted.
Georgina Revell, who lives at The Wharf in Chatham Maritime, previously told KentOnline about how some 140 flats in her building are now worthless and expected some people to go bankrupt as a result of the crisis.
Speaking on the passing of the bill, the pensioner said: "This is quite a devastating blow for those who live in flats under 18m high since we will now have to fight our management companies who are all about profit.
"It’s a hugely worrying time for us all and we are all extremely upset with the current government – this bill was thrown out four times.
"We will continue to fight to have liability appropriately delegated."
She added residents are still waiting for further information and reports about the works to replace non-fire retardant wood cladding which will be required.
Have you been affected by the cladding scandal and live in Kent? Send your story to firstname.lastname@example.org