Grenfell Tower-style cladding will not be removed from a privately owned housing complex in south London until £2m in costs are paid, either by residents or the government, a property tribunal has been told.
The renovation would cost up to £31,300 for each resident of the Cityscape complex in Croydon. The cladding used on the complex failed testing in the wake of the June 2017 Grenfell Tower disaster and was found to be inadequately fire-resistant.
The freeholder company, Proxima GR Properties, and the management company for the building, FirstPort, have taken the case to a property tribunal in an effort to get residents to pay towards the works.
FirstPort is also seeking to recoup the costs of fire marshals employed around the clock at Cityscape since the Grenfell disaster at a cost of £4,000 per week. That has racked up a total bill of over £132,000.
Counsel for FirstPort, Robert Bowker, told the tribunal, "The longer matters remain unresolved, the [longer] continuation of the fire watch costs will be incurred and that is something that is both in the interests of the applicant and respondent to resolve," the Guardian reported.
FirstPort - which manages 185,000 homes in 3,700 developments - originally estimated that the replacement of the cladding would cost just under £500,000 before revising the figure to £2m.
Although the government said the work should be carried out urgently, it will not begin until September at the earliest, having been delayed by the revision of FirstPort's estimate.
Proxima GR Properties said it was not obliged to cover the costs and warned leaseholders that the bill would increase if payment were delayed. Leaseholders could be presented with the bill in March when their next service charge is due.
FirstPort told the tribunal that it had "no other funding options" after being denied a loan by the Royal Bank of Scotland. Regional director of FirstPort, Paul Atkinson, said: "The bank wouldn't lend to us for that but they would be willing to lend to individual leaseholders."
Asked by judge Angus Andrew what would happen if the money was not found, Atkinson said: "It is difficult. We know we don't have the capacity to loan as much as required.
"We were with the MP for Croydon a few weeks ago urging him to speak to a [Department for Communities and Local Government] minister, which he did."
The cladding could be removed immediately at a cost of £5,000 per resident, with scaffolding used to protect the exposed building until a permanent solution is found. This would mean that it would no longer be necessary to employ the fire wardens, the tribunal was told.
Counsel for the leaseholders, Amanda Gourlay, argued that the use of fire marshals was never supposed to be a long-term solution. FirstPort should have installed a common fire alarm system instead, she said.
The judge warned that any decision by the tribunal would not set a precedent for future cases of this sort. Hundreds of buildings failed tests on their cladding in the months following the Grenfell Tower fire, in which 71 people died.
"Any decision we come to cannot be read across to another block of flats. It doesn't set a precedent," the judge said.