Leaseholders living in one of Birmingham’s tallest high rise towers are facing fire safety issues resulting in a building insurance hike of more than 1,200% as they scramble to secure insurance cover for their building with just a matter of days before their current policy runs out according to Inside Housing.Inside Housing has spoken to leaseholders living in the 183-home Brindley House tower block development in central Birmingham who have voiced fears about their futures after receiving a quote of more than £535,000 for this year’s building cover, 1,237% higher than their previous £40,000 policy.
They are now trying desperately to secure a cheaper quote before their current policy runs out on 1 May, or potentially face being forced out of their homes in the future if they are unable to find cover.
Katie Illingworth, a leaseholder at Brindley House, described the situation as “majorly stressful”.
She said: “A condition of having a mortgage is the building is insured. If the building isn’t insured you could default on the mortgage and it can be called in… and we could potentially have to leave.”
Last year leaseholders were made aware that the building contained polystyrene insulation, as well as high-pressure laminate (HPL) on the top three floors of the 17-storey block – if you have doubts or are unsure about these risks you should refer to the building fire risk assessment.
Under current government guidance these materials will need to be removed, with leaseholders estimating that this could cost anywhere up to £10m. In February after advice from the West Midlands Fire Service, the block installed a waking watch that is costing tens of thousands of pounds.
However, now the leaseholders are potentially facing an insurance premium of £535,000 – well over £2,000 per leaseholder – after the broker was able to find only one consortium of three insurance providers willing to cover the building.
Leaseholders in the block have said that they worry about their financial future, and many are already feeling the impacts of the COVID-19 crisis on their incomes.
Hana Imaan, a leaseholder at the block, is soon to be made redundant from her job and her husband has been furloughed. She say the combination of both situations is causing “worry and fear” for her and her family, which includes her young daughter.
She said: “This is causing us huge stress. We could be looking at bills of £60,000, with my husband being furloughed and me being made redundant I just don’t know where we will get that money from.”
Brindley House is the latest tower block with fire safety issues to be hit with extortionate insurance premium hikes. Last month, Inside Housing reported that Islington Gates, also in Birmingham, was hit by a massive insurance hike that saw its building’s insurance premium increase by nearly 400% last year, from £39,000 to £191,000. This was on top of the £8m cladding remediation bill facing leaseholders in Islington Gates.
Ms Illingworth, who lives in Islington Gates and owns a buy-to-let flat in Brindley House, is being hit with the insurance hikes and potentially crippling recladding bills in both developments.
She told Inside Housing: “I’m under double pressure – it is majorly stressful. It is the uncertainty. If I knew with certainty that we could sort this out, that we would get money from the government fund to cover it, or we could find the money to satisfy insurers [things would be different] but that isn’t the situation, which is really worrying.”
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- 26 May, 2020
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