A Higham Hill resident feels “trapped” into the mortgage of her shared ownership flat because of uncertainty over who will pay for fire safety works.

The resident, who has asked not to be named, lives at Papermill Place, a 241-flat development surveyors deemed a fire risk due to its flammable polystyrene cladding.

She told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) that the development’s freeholder, housing association L&Q, are refusing to confirm that leaseholders will be protected from the cost of future works.

This includes answering “n/a” when mortgage lenders ask whether costs will be passed on to leaseholders, making it difficult for shared-owners to sell or buy a larger portion of their homes.

The resident questioned why L&Q, who describe themselves a “charitable organisation”, are keeping her “needlessly trapped” in her mortgage rather than protecting her from the cost of defects which are not her fault.

She said: “By 2025, when they say they ‘hope to start work’, I will have been forced to pay at least £40,000 in rent and service charges, all because they won’t give my mortgage lender a guarantee about fire safety remediation costs.

“So I can’t buy any more of my flat and pay £40,000 of a mortgage, I have to watch that money go down the drain instead.

“I won’t be able to afford my flat soon if prices and rents keep going up, I can’t sleep because of what L&Q is putting us through.”

In March this year, L&Q sent residents a summary of a building survey that shows the polystyrene external wall cladding lacks the cavity barriers and fire stopping that could slow the spread of fire.

The letter said L&Q will “explore all opportunities for funding” before passing on any costs to leaseholders, including seeking compensation from the “original developer/contractor”.

When contacted for comment, a spokesperson for L&Q said: “Costs can only be passed to residents as a last resort and new legislation provides a number of protections for residents. 

“L&Q will exhaust all alternatives to passing on costs to residents, and will only do so in line with government guidance.”

The spokesperson did not respond when asked whether L&Q could cover the costs of remedial work instead of leaseholders.

A spokesperson for Papermill Place’s builder Telford Homes told the LDRS that initial assessments show the development is “low risk” due to the “construction type and materials used”.

They added: “We are working closely with L&Q to provide any necessary support needed to assist their leaseholders with mortgage requirements.

“We acknowledge the development industry’s responsibility to leaseholders and will continue to work with key stakeholders to address this issue to the benefit of leaseholders.”

Waltham Forest Council have confirmed that its building control team signed Papermill Court off as compliant with safety regulations when it was completed more than ten years ago.

Councillor Ahsan Khan, deputy leader of Waltham Forest and cabinet member for housing and regeneration, said: “The Building Safety Act 2022 passed last month promises to protect leaseholders from the cost of remedial work in relation to fire safety.

“While this responsibility is beyond the remit of the council, we support residents in holding developers to the letter of the law.”

If you have been affected by a similar issue, please contact josh@socialspider.com.