Mayor Glanville, with a reuseable water bottle, speaks at the waste inquiry. Photograph:
Mayor Philip Glanville has called for ‘greater transparency about the ownership of buildings, materials used, and where liabilities are placed’. Photograph: Hackney Council

Hackney Mayor Philip Glanville has spoken out in support of residents living through the “bureaucratic nightmare” caused by unsafe cladding on their buildings, which has seen many unable to sell their homes or hit with huge bills.

Councillors have been warning of the “distressing uncertainty” experienced by residents since March, when the Citizen reported on the concerns of De Beauvoir leaseholders after cladding deemed unsafe was found on three privately owned apartment blocks.

Now the Mayor and his adviser on private renting and housing affordability Cllr Sem Moema have called on government to provide “leadership and clarity” for what is estimated to be hundreds of people in Hackney living with the same issue during the coronavirus crisis, many of whom are key workers.

In a joint statement, Glanville and Moema said: “We are concerned about the responsibility of funding remediation falling on those with the least resources or access to legal representation, at a time when their focus is rightly on their heroic frontline work.

“Ministers should not expect Hackney’s key workers to be spending their time off in a bureaucratic nightmare.

“These residents have a limited ability to fund the necessary remediation work or to engage in a drawn out legal battle with building owners – especially at a time when they are risking their lives to respond to the coronavirus pandemic.

“The government must require greater transparency about the ownership of buildings, materials used, and where liabilities are placed.”

NHS staff and key workers, among other leaseholders living in private blocks, are understood to have contacted the council over their battles with building owners, mortgage lenders and government over demands for sums of up to tens of thousands of pounds to remove or fix cladding deemed unsafe under fire regulations.

Despite buildings conforming to regulations when they were built, many are left trapped by the change in rules, with mortgage lenders unwilling to work with properties that do not meet up-to-date government advice.

The BBC reported earlier in the year on the case of Dan Gilson and Rhiannon Robertson, whose flat was valued at £0 after they discovered that wood-effect panels on the exterior of De Beauvoir Wharf had a combustibility rating of D, or ‘medium contribution to fire’.

Hackney Town Hall is now estimating that hundreds of others could be affected, with mortgage lenders now requiring council leaseholders and buyers to give detailed evidence around their home’s construction.

Leaseholders are seeing long-term charges for measures which were meant to be temporary, such as waking watch patrols, as well as the costs of remediation for potentially high-risk cladding or other fire hazards.

It is understood the Town Hall is now seeing evidence of disputes between building management organisations, developers, housing associations and freeholders over who is responsible.

Additional fire hazards are also being identified that are not part of the government’s remediation scheme, with some residents in shared ownership buildings not covered by the funding still held liable for 100 per cent of costs, despite only owning as little as 25 per cent of their homes.

Glanville and Moema added: “As a local authority, we have acted quickly to identify affected buildings as government guidance has been released. We have contacted over 200 building owners and required them to provide the data requested.

“While many of these owners have responded quickly, there are some instances where tracking down ownership has been challenging or where owners have been slow to respond.

“As well as this, responses have often been inadequate, requiring further enquiries with threats of legal proceedings for those who are not participating. This process has taken multiple staff members away from their normal duties on an almost full-time basis.

“The government must require greater transparency about the ownership of buildings, materials used, and where liabilities are placed.”

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