Sheffield couple who moved into perfect first home now ‘trapped in potentially dangerous apartment’

A Sheffield couple say they are ‘trapped’ in their city centre apartment that has cladding on the outside if their managing agent fails to provide them with a key fire safety form.

By Lizzie Day
Wednesday, 7th October 2020, 9:01 am

Lauren Steel, 37, and her partner are unable to sell their apartment in Kelham Mills, Kelham Island because they claim their managing agent, Derwent Living, won’t provide them with an ESW1 form that lenders are now requesting before approving funds.

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors brought in the EWS1 form, following the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in June 2017, to ensure tower blocks with cladding over 18 metres high were safe so lenders would offer mortgages on flats.

But banks are now requiring the survey be carried out on buildings below 18 metres as well, despite it not being a legal requirement which has left couples such as Lauren and her partner among an estimated three million people who are caught in limbo and unable to move.

Kelham Mills.

The Kelham Island couple are now concerned they could be stuck in an apartment with potentially dangerous timber cladding for years, unless something changes.

Lauren said: "We've got potentially hazardous material on the side of the property.

"It certainly puts us on edge, it's quite stressful and it's always on your mind.

"You just think we're ready to move onto the next stage of our lives and move out and perhaps even move into a forever home but we aren't going to be able to do that now for a year, two years.

"We don't even know how long it could be until the government possibly steps in or Derwent agree to do the survey or there are changes in the forms and how they are issued.

"We are in effect trapped.

"We never thought we'd be having the problems we're having now when we first bought it.

"Any issues with cladding didn't exist just now.

"It was the dream home, the perfect first home."

More than 12,000 people have signed a petition to urge the government to help free leaseholders who are trapped in new build properties.

Lauren and her partner have had ‘sleepless nights’ worrying about the issue and continue to lobby Derwent Living and have even written to their MP Paul Blomfield for support.

"We are sitting ducks essentially, we can't push this anymore unless the government changes the rules on the height of the requirement for EWS1 forms then due to finances Derwent won't shift”, she added.

"We just feel very frustrated, we've both had sleepless nights over it because you wake up and you think are we going to be able to move or are we going to be here forever?”

A spokesperson for Derwent Living said: “We’re aware that some mortgage lenders are requesting EWS1 forms to be completed for properties under 18 metres high where there is no legal requirement to do so.

"This is unfortunately causing delays and frustration for both buyers and sellers.

"Properties at Kelham Mills have successfully sold in recent months without having required an EWS1 form so we recommend buyers speak to potential lenders about their requirements before obtaining a mortgage offer."

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