Birmingham Ladywood MP, Shabana Mahmood, has coordinated a cross-party letter to the Housing Secretary calling on him to urgently intervene to prevent pushing leaseholders to “financial ruin” because of soaring insurance premiums following the Grenfell Tower fire.
Flat owners at Brindley House in Shabana’s constituency face a joint insurance bill of £530,000 due to changes brought in the wake of the Grenfell Tower tragedy. This represents a 12-fold rise from the £43,000 owners of the 182 flats paid last year. As of this morning, they are set to default on their insurance – and could be the first of potentially many high rise blocks across the UK to do so. This may also mean that they face being evicted from the building.
The letter, signed by the Leader of Birmingham City Council, Councillor Ian Ward, and the Leader of the council’s Conservative and Liberal Democrat groups, urges the government to protect residents facing “potentially ruinous insurance hikes”. The group, which also includes the council’s Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods, Councillor Sharon Thompson, have also requested to meet with the minister via videoconferencing as soon as possible. The government’s Flood Re scheme is suggested as a potential model which could be adapted to prevent leaseholders from having to pay the ballooning insurance premiums many residents of high rise buildings are facing.
Speaking in a debate on the Fire Safety Bill earlier this week, the Birmingham Ladywood MP called on ministers to prevent insurance providers from hiking premiums as a result of new fire safety regulations. Calling it a matter of “fair play and decency”, she said she did not believe that leaseholders should be forced to pay out huge sums of money when they had originally acquired their properties in the knowledge that they met building regulations at the time.
Mahmood has been working alongside campaigners, including from the Birmingham Leaseholder Action Group and the UK Cladding Action Group on the many issues they have faced since the problems associated with flammable cladding were first exposed. She is continuing to push for further action to ensure that buildings such as Brindley House and the Islington Gates development have the full costs of remedial works met by the government’s Building Safety Fund and is seeking assurances that these funds will reach leaseholders as quickly as possible.
Shabana Mahmood MP said:
“The situation facing flat owners in Brindley House and in similar high rise buildings across the country demands urgent attention from ministers. How can it be morally right to allow insurance companies to inflate their premiums by one thousand per cent?
“The government has changed the building regulations because they were not fit-for-purpose and meant that properties were cladded with flammable material. It is therefore the government’s responsibility to foot the bill for the additional costs leaseholders are now facing as a result of these changes.
“I can’t imagine the stress and anxiety these leaseholders are being forced to endure – particularly in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic. Ministers need to step up urgently and intervene to prevent evictions and to ensure that these people are not forced into a state of financial ruin.”
NOTES TO EDITORS
- For further information or comment, please contact Will Hingley on 07880 231914 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Shabana Mahmood MP spoke during a debate on the Fire Safety Bill on Wednesday, 29 April. Hansard: https://bit.ly/2xnOB7R.
- A full copy of the letter, sent to the Ministry for Housing, Communities, and Local Government, is included below:
Letter to the Secretary of State
Dear Secretary of State,
Leaseholder Insurance Premiums in Tower Blocks – Brindley House, Birmingham
We hope this finds you well and thank you for the work you and your department are doing at this time of national emergency.
We wrote to you earlier this year to share our concerns in relation to insurance premiums for residents of tower blocks, following the Grenfell Tower tragedy and the necessary regulatory changes made as a result. We know that you were giving this matter your attention and that events with Covid-19 since that point have stretched the capacity of your department as it has the local council and all public bodies. Unfortunately this matter has now become even more pressing for one group of leaseholders in Birmingham in particular and we write now to ask for your urgent attention into specific case of Brindley House as well as to the more general issue that is highly likely to affect others like them.
As of this morning, leaseholders at Brindley House in Birmingham are set to default on their insurance premium which could force them to be evicted from their properties. Their premium now stands at around £530,000, having soared from £43,000 just last year. We understand that they would be the first of potentially many leaseholders who will soon face this situation.
The leaseholders at Brindley House have no realistic means of meeting this 12-fold increase in costs and, moreover, we do not believe it fair they should be liable to pay them and face potential financial ruin as a result.
We believe that the Government’s ‘Flood Re’ provides a potential useful model for these circumstances in the way it works with the insurance market to prevent unaffordable premiums being given to the owners of properties which are considered to be at a high risk of flooding. Given that the leaseholders in this building and other similar properties across our city and around the UK acquired their properties in the knowledge that they met the building regulations at the time, it would seem appropriate for a similar package of support be made available to them in cooperation with the insurance industry.
As this may take some time to establish, we believe that some more immediate relief is needed for the residents of Brindley House, and others facing a similar situation, to ensure their properties can remain insured.
We would welcome the opportunity to meet with you via video conferencing as soon as is practically possible so that we can discuss this in further detail and find a way forward together that protects residents facing potentially ruinous insurance hikes.
Shabana Mahmood MP
Councillor Ian Ward
Leader, Birmingham City Council
Councillor Robert Alden
Conservative Group Leader, Birmingham City Council
Councillor Sharon Thompson
Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods, Birmingham City Council
Councillor Ken Wood
Shadow Cabinet Member for Homes and Neighbourhoods, Birmingham City Council
Councillor Jon Hunt
Liberal Democrat Group Leader, Birmingham City Council
Councillor Roger Harmer
Liberal Democrat Deputy Group Leader, Birmingham City Council