Naomi Attar was given the soul destroying news her home in Colindale was unsafe to live in almost two years ago.
The cladding, timber balconies and insulation on the building were found to be combustible by a survey that was conducted in the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire.
The insulation, in fact, being the same as that on Grenfell.
Yet, despite her and her fellow residents’ efforts, the 37-year-old said little has been done since to improve the situation by either the developers, Fairview New Homes or Barnet Council.
Naomi is now stuck with a flat that won’t sell for any price.
Naomi said: “It’s very stressful and upsetting because I’ve put a huge amount of money into this flat. I saved up for six years while living at my parents’ house, my parents also helped out with some of their savings, and my grandmother left me some money in her will.
“Basically three generations of people working hard for years to save up enough money to buy this modest, one-bedroom flat.
“Now I’m being told that it’s worth nothing – you cannot sell these flats.”
READ MORE:West London homeowners face £25,000 bill to remove cladding that could be unsafe
The survey also revealed that Fairview New Homes had not used the recommended insulation nor put in enough firebreaks, obstacles that prevent the spread of a fire, when they constructed the building.
Naomi remarked: “They just cut loads of corners.”
Naomi said it is her and her fellow residents who will most likely have to stump up the costs to fix the issues.
“Even though the law is probably on our side, we can’t really take a large developer to court,” she added.
“As little people, we don’t have the resources to do that because they’re going to have a lot more money for lawyers.”
Worse still, the amount is uncapped and they have been waiting for two years to find out how much it will be.
In light of sums they have been quoted, Naomi predicted it will be in the hundreds of thousands. Once they are given the bill, they will be expected to come up with the money within 28 days.
On top of this, residents are having to pay for other costs like surveys and insurance, which has so far been in the thousands per year.
“That’s a few nice holidays I could be going on when instead I’m paying for nothing because the people I bought this flat from didn’t build them properly,” said Naomi.
(Image: Joe Douglas)
Joe Douglas, 31, saved up for a deposit for two years before buying his first flat for £270,000 in one of the Colindale buildings in the same year as Naomi, 2015, but,
Echoing her words he said: “It’s now worth nothing.”
He said he is also paying £5,200 a year in those extra costs, with charges like insurance increasing the longer this situation has gone on for – money that he will never get back:
“It’s a financial nightmare. I’ve found the whole thing absolutely awful. It dominates your life,” he explained.
While the government set up the Building Safety Fund after the Grenfell Tower fire, which is supposed to contribute towards removing the dangerous cladding on the buildings, the numerous other issues that were discovered by the survey are not covered by the fund.
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And the legalities of the whole situation are murky.
Joe noted: “Fairview New Homes could argue that they were following the cladding regulations at the time, but the other issues that were unearthed by the survey were not within the regulations even then.
“Fairview has said that they will pay if it can be proven that it is their fault, which could take years and a lot of money, with responsibility potentially being shirked onto sub-contractors. It’s incredibly frustrating that Fairview are not more cooperative – they’ve just washed their hands of it.”
A spokesperson from Fairview New Homes said: “We do not underestimate the challenges that the Colindale leaseholders are facing.
“While this is a complex issue impacting the wider industry, we are working through with the relevant parties.”
(Image: Edith Lai)
The residents, alongside others who describe themselves as ‘victims of the cladding scandal’, held protests over the weekend and have more planned soon.
Joe remarked: “I hope and pray that the situation will be resolved and that the leaseholders will not have to pay.
“It’s not just this development and that’s what keeps me going – that it’s not just me.
“But that does make the problem bigger. I don’t know how many people are going to go bankrupt before it gets resolved, and that’s going to be a bigger problem for society.”
Naomi added: “The government is not making the developers do the right thing for thousands and thousands of people in awful situations like myself up and down the country because they see the developers as more important stakeholders to them than the leaseholders.
“So far, it’s all been empty words and they need to do something meaningful.”