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Nova House lease holders sent bill of £14k to replace unsafe cladding

Leaseholders of a block of flats in Slough which failed a cladding safety test have each been sent a bill of more than £14,000 each to cover cladding replacement.

Fire safety concerns were raised about Nova House in Buckingham Gardens after its cladding failed a government backed safety test in the wake of the Grenfell Tower disaster.

In October, Slough Borough Council (SBC) announced plans to buy the seven-storey block’s freeholding company, Ground Rent Estates 5 Limited, due to safety concerns.

Negotiations are ongoing and SBC is still carrying out due diligence to assess the building’s safety.

On a bill dated Tuesday, December 19, owners of three bed flats were handed a bill of £19,196.97 each by property manager Ringley, £14,843.17 of which was for the reserve account to cover potential cladding costs and the rest being a service charge.

Owners of flats with fewer beds were charged slightly less.

In a covering letter to leaseholders seen by The Express, Ringley says leaseholders must pay the regular service charge on January 1 but that they will not be required to pay the reserve fund ‘for the time being’.

The service charge and reserve fund for all 68 apartments comes to £2,005,010, which includes £312,000 for fire wardens, £32,500 for a concierge and £28,000 for gas for the communal boilers.

Nova House’s service charge budget for all apartments for the whole of 2017 was £142,344 plus £39,692 for the reserve fund.

Landlord Richard Venables called the latest bill a ‘ransom note’ and says he and about 27 leaseholders will resist cladding related payments.

He says the responsibility for cladding either lies with insurers BLP or inspectors Butler & Young, which originally signed off the building.

In September it emerged the cladding material used was different to the type specified by the original developer, TPS Nova, and by Butler & Young.

Commenting on December’s bill, an SBC spokeswoman said: “The council’s position has not changed and we have no idea on why Ringley has sent this out at this stage.

“We fully understand the concerns of leaseholders after receiving this.”

A Ringley spokeswoman said only one charge can be made to leaseholders every year.

She added: “As extensive works on the property are due to take place in 2018, regardless of who owns the freehold, we took the decision to set out the cost of the works to replace the cladding on the building in this invoice.

“It is vital that the funds are available for this work and we have taken the responsible step by putting in the sum in this year’s invoice for that work to be conducted. 

“This will support either ourselves, or the local authority if they take control of the freehold.

“We are doing all that we can to protect leaseholders from any costs associated with the works by pursuing an insurance claim from BLP.

“However, as a responsible freeholder we need to plan for any eventuality.”

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