Natasha's Story

My partner and I were first time buyers when we bought this flat five years ago. We worked so hard to get here and were so happy. However, in December, we found out the fire alarm wasn't loud enough to be heard in the flats - which is incompatible with the new "Get Out" policy in place post-Grenfell. Each week, our management company is charging our block over £6000 plus VAT, and another block over £4000 plus VAT, to put in place a "waking watch". They patrol the corridors and outside with air horns in case of a fire. This is costing us over £400 a month - and we've just found out that it will be continuing for another three months minimum. This is a crippling amount of money that we can't afford to pay - it's essentially quadrupling our service charge. In order to remove the waking watch we also have to pay for a fire alarm upgrade. The combined cost is a minimum of £2,500 which I'm forced to pay - but I do so in protest because I have no other option and will take legal action to claim it back. If the alarm system is not upgraded by the end of June this cost will increase and we also don’t yet know the costs of other potential work.

We are being told we have to pay for replacement wooden cladding, and possibly an upgrade to the wooden balconies. Again, no costs have been given. We can't sell the house because of the fire issues - so we are trapped here. We are absolutely terrified. We are essentially imprisoned in a dangerous flat and writing a blank cheque for the privilege.

Every communication from our management company has been devoid of sympathy - only using management and financial language - treating us as cash cows rather than human beings with broken hearts. We've had barely any information - and it's only through the Manchester fire and rescue service and the Cladiators do I finally feel like we are getting some support. 

I appreciate the focus on fire safety, but what I can't understand is why nobody is taking our mental safety seriously - and the risk to our lives from mental health problems.

My mental health has significantly deteriorated. I'm absolutely shattered from the incessant worrying. It's making me physically ill and I've had to seek medical treatment. We can't make any plans for the future - we've just spent a huge chunk of our savings on our wedding and we were meant to be booking a honeymoon of a lifetime with the money we were given as wedding gifts - and now we are facing the real possibility that we will have to spend that money to keep us afloat. We were planning to move house and start a family in the next year or so - and now all our plans have been put on hold. We have no idea when it will end - it could be years. It's torture. 

This situation is utter hell. I wouldn't wish it on my worst enemy. We worked so hard to get this flat (given how many odds are stacked against young first time buyers), did everything right in our lives by getting good jobs and saving up - and we are being punished for something that wasn't our fault and beyond our control. We bought these flats in good faith and had them checked over by lawyers. Why are the building owners and the developers getting away with this? This situation was completely unforeseeable for leaseholders and horrendously unfair. We need cross-party support on this to help us escape this nightmare. It's honestly ruining our lives. I beg everyone to consider how they would feel in this position - and try and help raise awareness. 

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