Sheffield flat owner's insurance bill rockets from £250 to £3,000 due to cladding crisis

A flat owner in Sheffield says she is being "held to ransom" after her home insurance bill rocketed from £250 to £3,000 a year because of problems uncovered by the cladding crisis.

Jenni Garratt, 25, who bought her flat in the Wicker Riverside building for £93,000 in 2019, says she may have to find the money within a month.

"In 2019 our premium to insure the whole building was £25,000," she said.

"We've now had a quote for £400,000, so it's gone up by 1,300% and for me as an individual leaseholder that's £3,000.

"You can't not have insurance, so we are basically being held to ransom... I have to ask whether this is exploitation of the situation rather than proportionate to the risk."

The building is classed as a fire risk because it has flammable insulation and unsafe wooden balconies, as well as a number of internal defects.

It is one of thousands of tower blocks across the country where problems have been uncovered in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

72 died as a result of the Grenfell Tower fire (David Mirzoeff/PA) Credit: PA Wire/PA Images

Miss Garratt says she feels "very lucky" that the building has now been approved to receive government funding to remediate some of the defects.

But she is still facing high costs to put right other faults and she has already had to pay out thousands of pounds for interim measures.

She said: "I'm still facing a bill at the moment of potentially another £5,000 for remediating balconies, we've got internal compartmentation problems. I've already paid £5,000 for waking watch, fire alarms and surveys."

A report by MPs said people should not have to pay for issues that they could not have known about.

They were responding to plans outlined by the Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove in January.

Mr Gove said in January that no leaseholder living in a block above 36ft (11m) high would have to pay for fixing dangerous problems.

The cross-party Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (LUHC) Committee said: "The secretary of state said the government would protect leaseholders from remediation costs, but too many leaseholders will fall through the cracks of the Government's piecemeal measures".

Their report recommends that a comprehensive building safety fund should be put in place to cover the costs of remediating all safety defects on any buildings of any height where the original "polluter" cannot be traced.

It said leaseholders should be compensated for costs already paid out, including for interim measures and for rises in insurance premiums.

The report said the committee heard evidence that non-cladding expenses represent at least half of total bills for building safety remediation, with one block facing £100,000 of non-cladding costs per flat.

Sheffield MP Clive Betts, chairman of the LUHC Committee, said: "Leaseholders should not be paying a penny to rectify faults not of their doing in order to make their homes safe.

"Nearly five years after the tragic Grenfell fire, it is shameful this situation is yet to be properly resolved.

"While we welcome Michael Gove's commitment to fixing these issues, we are concerned there are gaps in the Secretary of State's proposals which risk leaving leaseholders to pick up the bill."

He added: "We recommend the government identify all relevant parties who played a role in this crisis, such as product suppliers, installers, contractors and sub-contractors, and legally require them to pay towards fixing individual faults and ensure that they also contribute to collective funding for building safety remediation. Insurers should also be required to contribute to funds for remediation."

A Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities spokesperson said: "We have scrapped the flawed loan scheme and delivered the most radical and far-reaching legal protections ever for leaseholders on building safety.

"Industry, not leaseholders, must pay to fix the problems they caused. We will consider the committee's report carefully and respond in detail.

"However, asking taxpayers to pay more upfront instead of developers, and to cover costs for overseas property investors, would be entirely the wrong approach."