In a shock ruling, residents of two Manchester apartment blocks have been told they will be footing the bill to replace dangerously flammable cladding, which is likely to cost upward of £3 million or face County Court judgment.
Residents told to pay for cladding replacement costs, safety watch costs and landlord’s legal fees
The First Tier Tribunal ruled that the Greenquarter homeowners must pay, not only for the costs of replacing the dangerous cladding but also the costs for a ‘waking watch’ which will be in place until the work is completed, the cost of the tribunal itself, and the cost of legal representation used against them by their landlord Pemberstone.
Landlord Pemberstone has claimed the Tribunal was a ‘fair and independent way’ to determine who should pay – however, residents, who had no say in the decision to use the defective cladding during the building process, are understandably unhappy with the ruling.
MP says First Tier Tribunals are a ‘scandal’
MP Jim Fitzpatrick this week claimed that First Tier Tribunals were unfair and ‘a scandal’. He said:
“What was meant to be a low-cost forum has now become a costs regime that benefits only one side, and that side is the landlord. It is a one-sided arms race.”
The costs Greenquarter residents are being billed for were determined in the Tribunal as being “reasonable”. However, Fitzpatrick said:
“the test of reasonableness for costs at the tribunal has no concept of “good value”, let alone “best value”. Even if the leaseholders (residents) win, and the tribunal limits the landlord from passing on costs, it may not happen. With many developments, leaseholders have found that it is heads the landlord wins, and tails the leaseholders lose.”
“Some of these leaseholders are young individuals, couples and families starting out who are compromised by unfair and expensive refurbishment costs post-Grenfell. They will defend their homes, but the law is against them…The one thing that these people all have in common is that they will find that the first-tier tribunal disputes resolution procedure, which is supposed to be simple, inexpensive and informal, is no such thing.”
Residents at mercy of original developer
Residents are now at the mercy of multi-billion-pound development company, LendLease who originally sold the homes to residents, to “do the right thing” and pay to replace the cladding.
LendLease told residents that they wanted to find a resolution to the situation and assured residents that they had employed a full time internal team to work on the case so that they could “understand what they would be saying yes to”. However, after a month of LendLease and residents being in talks to this end, LendLease issued a statement out of the blue yesterday claiming that they in fact did not build or design the homes in question.
Andy Burnham to meet with Lendlease
Manchester Mayor, Andy Burnham has met with Greenquarter residents and has committed to helping persuade LendLease to ‘do the right thing’, hoping to use the situation as a case study for other residents in similar situations around the UK. Burnham is due to meet with LendLease this week.
Meanwhile, the work to remove and replace the cladding on the Greenquarter apartments, which has been described as “more flammable than petrol” by the QC for Grenfell victims, isn’t due to start on one of the blocks until Spring 2019.
Resident: Developer is ‘morally corrupt’
Resident Katie Kelly says she feels conned, and is calling for developer Lendlease to foot the bill:
“Pemberstone has tried to claim that the tribunal was a fair way to rule on who should pay which is isn’t.”
“I feel conned for believing what LendLease told us, making out that they wanted to help sort out this mess when in fact they were only looking out for themselves. It turns out that their full-time team working on our case, weren’t working to help find a solution to benefit anyone other than themselves.
“At the end of the day we bought our homes from LendLease. And it is LendLease who we hold accountable. We are putting our faith in Andy Burnham now to convince this faceless and morally corrupt company to do the right thing, but we haven’t ruled out taking legal action against LendLease and have had several offers from global law firms to help us fight this injustice pro bono.
“People’s lives are at risk here, not just from the danger of the building going up in flames but also financial ruin. LendLease will not get away with trying to wash their hands of what they have done and must take responsibility for their actions.”
LendLease, who’s 2017 pre-tax profit was $1,201.8 million, actively promotes its company vision that “Companies must start justifying their worth to society, with greater emphasis placed on environmental and social impact rather than straight economics.”
Despite this commitment, financial hardship is on the cards for many of the Greenquarter residents who are unable to sell or re-mortgage their homes to help cover the costs.
Lendlease: a track record of using unsafe cladding
It has also been revealed that LendLease have previously used unsafe cladding. Reports show LendLease were found to be using flammable cladding material on Melbourne’s Royal Women’s Hospital in Australia and were ordered to remove and replace the cladding.
Residents are hoping they take the same action on their homes here in the UK – but are yet to do so.
Katie Kelly, owner of one of the Greenquarter apartments said,
“What will it take for LendLease to act? The fire assessment for our buildings advised “immediate removal of the cladding” but still we are no further in them taking responsibility. We fear that our lives are in genuine danger. People live here with their families and small children, no sprinklers and inadequately sounding fire alarms. If the images of Grenfell tower aren’t enough to convince them of the immediate danger we are in, I don’t know what will, until others lose their lives.”
LendLease the original developer of the site who promote their “leading approach to safety”, is currently in the bidding for a £190m contract for the restoration of Manchester Town Hall.