The recent cut in stamp duty could help boost the property market amid the coronavirus pandemic – but there are a slice of homeowners who are unable to take advantage due to unsafe cladding.

They have been unable to sell their homes due to the flammable materials used on their buildings.

They are effectively ‘prisoners’ in their own homes as lenders refuse to offer finance to buyers.

The clampdown on finance follows the fire at Grenfell Tower three years ago, which claimed 72 lives.

But it is not the lenders who are to blame. Rather it is the owners of the buildings who are refusing to pay for the cladding to be replace by safe materials.

Understandably, lenders have become nervous about underwriting such buildings since the Grenfell tragedy.

Add the coronavirus pandemic into the mix, where concerns about future house prices and the wider economy have made lenders even more cautious about lending to anyone but the most credit-worthy of borrowers.

It has left anyone living in a home with dangerous cladding unable to sell their home to anyone but a cash buyer.

Unfortunately, for some affected homeowners, it has also become a serious health issue.

Nine out of 10 of the 550 leaseholders and tenants surveyed by campaigners at the UK Cladding Action Group said their mental health had deteriorated due to fire safety problems.

And nearly a quarter reported suicidal feelings or considered self-harm as a result of their predicament. 

They have been unable to sell their flats and face crippling bills to get the building work fixed.

In addition, many leaseholders have been living in fear that a second Grenfell could happen.

Some are facing bills of as much as £24,000 a month for fire wardens to patrol during the night, to help keep their homes safe while the dangerous cladding remains in place.

Homeowner is unable to sell

Edmund Spencer, 37, reveals he has sleepless nights about cladding

Edmund Spencer, 37, reveals he has sleepless nights about cladding

Edmund Spencer, 37, bought his first home in eight years ago, but has only just found out that his three-bedroom shared ownership flat that he co-owns with his flatmate is affected by cladding issues.

The flat is in a block in East London that has cladding. 

As a result, Ed says he is unable to sell his flat to anyone but a cash buyer as lenders refuse to provide loans on these types of properties with it passing fire safety tests.

The IT worker is keen to sell up and move out of the capital as he is able to work remotely. 

Yet he fears being left with a massive bill to cover the cost of fixing the ‘flammable cladding’ and covering the potential cost of a night warden to patrol the property. 

He would like to be able to sell his 40 per cent share of the flat for £300,000, but sees little hope of this happening while the cladding issue is being addressed. A fire report has yet to be released by the housing association One Housing Group.

He said: ‘I am devastated that my first house buying experience means that I could lose all my savings.

‘I’ve not been able to sleep properly since finding out a few weeks ago. It is shocking.

‘I have done everything I was supposed to do. I saved up and  bought a home, only to find out that I could lose everything. It is devastating and I have no idea of the potential costs that lie ahead.’

One Housing Group was contacted by MailOnline for a comment and it insisted that it has ‘robust measures in place’ to protect residents.

Chyrel Brown, of One Housing, said: ‘We do understand the frustration and worry being felt by our residents with cladding on their buildings. I want to reassure them that we are acting on the plans we have in place. 

‘We continue to take the safety of our residents very seriously and we have robust measures in place to protect them.

‘In terms of [the flats Ed lives in], we are continuing to do the necessary works with qualified fire professionals and the intrusive test was carried out recently and we are awaiting the results. 

‘Following the results, we will be in touch with our residents with more information. In addition to this, we also intend to share a summary of the fire risk assessment when it’s available.

‘We are working with the other G15 housing associations and continue to engage with government for further clarity and additional funding. 

‘We are looking at all options of the Building Safety Fund and are awaiting detail on how to apply for funding to cover leasehold costs which will be set out this month. 

‘We are continuing to pursue warranty providers and other parties involved with the construction of these buildings.’

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The cladding deadlock 

Why has the problem not been resolved? Freeholders and developers are often delaying or refusing to pay to fix the problems despite the Government insisting that they ‘have a legal responsibility to ensure their buildings are safe’.

In the past, cladding was used to improve the appearance of tower blocks and green policies encouraged the use of cladding to improve insulation to make buildings more energy-efficient. 

There are still 300 high-rise residential and publicly owned buildings in England built or refurbished with similar aluminium composite cladding yet to be remediated, according to figures from the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government.

It comes as the UN warned Britain about its failure to strip combustible cladding from high-rise buildings, saying it may be a breach of international law.

The UN is warning Britain may have breached the international covenant on economic, social and cultural rights.

It includes the ‘right of everyone to an adequate standard of living for himself and his family, including adequate food, clothing and housing’. 

Housing should be habitable with ‘adequate space and protecting them from cold, damp, heat, rain, wind or other threats to health,’ it says.

Mortgage lenders have restricted their loans on homes with cladding following the Grenfell Tower fire three years ago that claimed 72 lives

Mortgage lenders have restricted their loans on homes with cladding following the Grenfell Tower fire three years ago that claimed 72 lives

So far, the Government has spent less than a quarter of what if promised on replacing dangerous cladding.

In May 2018, ministers pledged £400million to remove aluminium composite material panels on social housing towers. But only £133million has been spent, according to a report by the National Audit Office.

And of an additional £200million earmarked in May 2019 to fix private blocks, only £1.4million has been spent.

Will Martin, of UK Cladding Action Group, said: ‘Three years on from Grenfell and yet thousands of residents of buildings across the UK still go to bed each night in unsafe homes covered in dangerous cladding. 

‘This daily mental stress is taking its toll, with nine out of 10 saying their mental health has deteriorated. The delayed response to the UN report will do little to encourage leaseholders the government is tackling this housing crisis head on. 

‘Fire will not wait for the argument over who is financially and legally responsible for fixing catastrophic failings in building safety (caused by a failure of the government’s building regulations) to be resolved and nor should the government.’ 

A spokesman for the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government told MailOnline Property: ‘All building owners have a legal responsibility to ensure their buildings are safe. We’ve made £1.6bn available to speed up the removal of unsafe cladding and make residents safer in their homes.

‘There has been considerable progress – remediation is underway or completed in 95 per cent of buildings identified with ACM cladding in the social sector.

‘It’s unacceptable that some building owners have yet to remove unsafe cladding; and we are actively pursuing them to encourage swift action. 

‘We are also introducing the most significant improvements to building safety rules in 40 years, to protect even more residents in future.’

In the past cladding was used to improve the appearance of tower blocks. Pictured: Chalcots Estate in north London, where work has been carried out to remove cladding

In the past cladding was used to improve the appearance of tower blocks and green policies encouraged the use of cladding to improve insulation to make buildings more energy-efficient

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