Cladding victims across Yorkshire rally at London protest

Leaseholders trapped in buildings covered in flammable cladding and fire safety defects have come together in London to demand change on a variety of issues, from cladding and insulation, to ground rent, services charges and increasing insurance.

Across Yorkshire it is thought over 140 buildings are impacted by fire safety issues, facing costs reaching hundreds of thousands of pounds to fix the issues.

Campaigners say they face financial ruin because no-one has yet been held responsible for dangerous structural defects in residential blocks.

Abi Tubis, who founded the Leeds Cladding Scandal group said: "There are people who have bills more than their flats cost them.

"We didn't make these problems we didn't build these buildings incorrectly and we shouldn't pay to fix them."

The government has pledged £5.1 billion to improve buildings with fire safety issues following the Grenfell disaster four years ago.

But so far only £578 million of that has been allocated to affected buildings and many have already been hit with bills expecting them to cover the costs themselves.

Furthermore, many leaseholders have already been hit with huge bills for hiked insurance and fire safety costs.

Rachael Loftus, who lives in Leeds and took part in our exclusive survey, has seen her insurance rise from £800 last year to £1800 since we last spoke to her.

"You wonder how long you can put up with this for. Last year I said I thought something would be done by now and I'm still in the same position.

"My bills keep rising and we've still not been allocated any money from the fund to fix these issues.

"Our bill has been quotes at £112,000 each which is more than I paid for my flat."

Campaigners have developed a proposed Polluter Pays Bill, which would see affected buildings recover costs from responsible parties if a breach is found, rather than be expected to foot the bill themselves.

This bill would provide a route to recouping costs from builders and developers without the need for expensive, private legal action.

The government says it's bringing forward the biggest improvements to building and fire safety in 40 years, but Labour MP for Leeds Central, Hilary Benn MP said: "The government is saying we'll pay to remove the dangerous cladding, but if you've got missing firebreaks, if you've got flammable insulation inside, or wooden balconies or other defects we're not paying for that."

Mr Benn added: "The campaign is building. More and more MPs realise what an injustice this scandal and we're going to keep up the pressure until we win. Because the good people here today should not have to fix a problem that was never, never their responsibility."

In February 2021, Robert Jenrick MP, former Secretary of State for Housing, Communities & Local Government, said: "The government is acutely aware of the challenges faced by shared owners, and we’re going to make particular provision to protect them".

But after a Cabinet reshuffle, leaseholders will now be demanding action from new Housing Secretary Michael Gove.

Rachael Loftus says she hopes Gove will respond to their needs with action, rather than words.

"The hope is a Minister will come at this with fresh eyes and see the absolute injustice of this, that people like me are facing huge costs for a building that I don't own and could never possibly make back."