Leaseholders warn of mental health crisis as they face bills for cladding

Max McLean, PA
·3-min read

Leaseholders have warned of the mental health impact of the cladding crisis, with one woman saying she had been diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression as a result.

After attempts to amend the Fire Safety Bill failed, angry leaseholders expressed their concern once again.

Boris Johnson faced a major Tory rebellion over the bill, but a final push in the House of Lords to amend it with protections for leaseholders was defeated on Wednesday night.

A worker in a hi-vis jacket and a white hard hat removes a green panel from a building
Cladding being removed from Hanover tower block in Sheffield (Danny Lawson/PA)

Stephen Squires, a leaseholder who lives in a tower block in Manchester – which was found to bear dangerous cladding, told the PA news agency the stress “is constantly praying on your mind”.

He cited “the delays in getting the funding agreements signed” by the agent of their freeholder as one of the major contributing factors.

The 43-year-old said: “There is definitely a mental health issue for leaseholders.

“Bills are increasing and people are starting to (get) really concerned about how they will make ends meet, and if they will ultimately lose their homes, let alone any savings they have.

“It has an impact on every aspect of people’s lives, as it is constantly praying on your mind.

“Every time an email or letter from managing agents and freeholders arrives, the fear of what it contains is palpable.”

Undated handout file photo of Stephen Squires a leaseholder at Britton House, a tower block in Manchester bearing dangerous cladding. “Angry” campaigners have vowed to continue fighting against the Government’s post-Grenfell fire safety reforms, after rebels failed in an attempt to prevent them being passed in to law. Issue date: Thursday April 29, 2021
Stephen Squires, a leaseholder at Britton House, a tower block in Manchester (Stephen Squires)

A 33-year-old woman from London, who asked to remain anonymous, said that she had “weeping sores” as a result of the toll on her mental health.

Her husband, a keyworker, is being transferred at work and she said they are unable to sell their flat, after their building was found to have wooden cladding and missing cavity barriers.

This means they will have to split the family up and find money for him to rent a room closer to his job, while she looks after two young children.

“I have been diagnosed with severe anxiety and depression and am having to fund my own counselling,” she told PA.

“I’m on a sedating anti-depressant as I can’t sleep. I’m covered in stress eczema and at one point my scalp was covered in weeping sores from the stress of this all.

“I mean, for most of the last year we have been ordered to stay at home. For us, our home is the cause of all our misery and has exacerbated our mental health issues.

“I am just broken.”

In some cases, leaseholders have described being trapped in homes that are a fire risk, unable to sell because lenders will not offer mortgages until the cladding is removed.

Laura Thompson, 27, a leaseholder in Sheffield and a first-time buyer, said that her life will “be on hold for years”.

“Our building has missing cavity barriers behind the cladding and also potentially flammable wood on balconies, none of which are covered by the building safety fund,” she told PA.

“The news re the Fire Safety Bill is absolutely devastating.

“We cannot pay. These aren’t minor bills.

“Allowing this bill the pass without amendments to protect leaseholders will cause a wave (of) bankruptcies, forfeitures and mental health problems, even suicides.

“It’s a complete betrayal from the Conservatives who claim to be the party of home ownership.”