Yorkshire leaseholders say new cladding support is 'tiptoeing towards fairness'

A former flat owner in Leeds who went bankrupt because of fire safety issues in her building says new cladding support wouldn't have helped her.

Housing Secretary Michael Gove has announced flat owners on the lower floors of high rise blocks will no longer have to pay for the removal of dangerous cladding.

Instead the government wants developers to cover the costs of removing it for flats between 11 and 18 metres high.

Hayley Tillotson, 29, bought her flat in 2020 but six months later she was hit with the news that it was unsafe and covered in a similar style of cladding as that used on the Grenfell tower block.

To stay living in the building, residents had to start covering the cost of 24-hour fire wardens, known as waking watch, their insurance premiums sky-rocketed and their flats became unsellable.

After she lost her job during Covid, Hayley's flat was repossessed last December.

Hayley when she bought her flat and when she handed over the keys. Credit: Hayley Tillotson

Hayley says the new support announced today is "one more little tentative step towards being fair" but notes it only covers the cost of cladding, not other fire safety issues.

Hayley Tillotson says new cladding support wouldn't have stopped her going bankrupt:

She said: "Had I a magic wand and a time machine and Gove had said this while I was still in the flat truthfully it wouldn't have helped me.

"It would have paid for the cladding on the building but there wasn't a lot of cladding at all really. For us, two thirds of the cost probably were things like missing fire breaks, insulation, cavity barriers, combustable insulation, and the wooden balconies."

"It's good news today but it's still not over by a long stretch.

"It's awful really having to just sit on the edge of your seat and hope and cross your fingers. But we do need a lot more reassurance because for a lot of us it's nice that we might not have to worry about cladding but there's a lot of stuff that we do still have to worry about."

Speaking in the Commons today, Michael Gove said developers and companies that sought to profit from the cladding crisis are being "put on notice."

The Housing Secretary told MPs leaseholders were "shouldering a desperately unfair burden" and the "industries who profited" should be paying for the mistakes.

He added: "We will also ensure that those who profited and and continue to profit from the sale of unsafe buildings and construction products must take full responsibility for their actions and pay to put things right."

Sheffield leaseholder Jenni Garratt has spent over £5,000 since finding out her building is unsafe. She was one of group of leaseholders who met Mr Gove earlier today.

She said: "I don't want to say everything's rainbows and butterflies because I'll believe it when I see it and I've learnt to be quite cautious in this situation but Michael Gove's definitely saying the right things.

"He did instill in me quite a bit of faith in me that he believes leaseholders fundamentally shouldn't have to pay for this, they're not responsible, and he reiterated that the policy is to go after the polluters, the developers, the cladding manufacturers."