12:13PM, Monday 06 August 2018
A question mark hangs over whether the leaseholders of a tower block in central Slough with unsafe cladding will have to pay for fire marshals.
Nova House in Buckingham Gardens hit the headlines after it failed a Government-backed cladding safety test following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017.
Slough Borough Council (SBC) bought the freeholding company, Ground Rent Estates 5 LTD (GRE5), in March, taking over the seven-storey tower due to safety concerns.
As well as being clad in the same aluminium composite material (ACM) used for Grenfell Tower, Nova House has other safety issues and defects.
Royal Berkshire Fire and Rescue Service’s annual report, published on Monday, said that Nova House had received a category three failure rating from the Building Research Establishment and cited concerns over the block’s ventilation.
The issue is one of several reported by tenants, including the block’s heating and hot water system, which had broken down 27 times in the previous 28 months from April.
In December leaseholders for all 68 apartments were charged £312,000 for 24-hour fire wardens by property manager Ringley as part of service charge bills.
Other costs included £32,500 for a concierge and £28,000 for gas for the communal boilers, with the overall bill totalling £2,005,010.
Individual leaseholders were told to pay around £19,000, of which £14,843.17 was for a reserve account to cover potential cladding costs.
In a letter sent to leaseholders on Monday, July 23, GRE5 says many leaseholders’ refusal to pay the bill is having a ‘detrimental impact upon the service charge fund’.
As a result, the company says it has instructed solicitors JB Leitch Limited to apply to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT), which handles property disputes, to ‘determine the reasonableness and payability of the fire marshals as part of the service charge’. Leaseholders have been asked to only pay regular service charges for now, but this may change depending on the FTT’s determination.
A council spokeswoman said GRE5 is pursuing an insurance claim and taking action against third parties involved in the development, building and cladding of Nova House.
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