Time to take legal advice on where they stand

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Rob Shaffery describes it as living in a ‘plastic bubble’ – and, judging by the photographs we publish today, he’s not wrong.

He and fellow residents of the Vista block of flats in Portsmouth have had to endure the building being covered in scaffolding and plastic sheeting ever since last year, when a report deemed the cladding dangerous to pedestrians.

Not much of a vista, then...

But the lack of a view is really the least of the residents’ worries. Because they are stuck in the middle of a disagreement over who should foot the bill to fix the cladding.

The original builder, Linden Homes, is being chased to pay by current owner Aviva Investors REaLM Ground Rent fund, which bought the freehold on the building in 2013.

It’s no wonder nobody wants to cough up, because we’re not talking about a small job here. The figure quoted to do the work is £3.2m.

But if the builder or the freeholder won’t budge, then each of the 69 flat owners faces a bill of between £33,000 and £47,000 to repair the cladding.

That’s a service charge of up to a quarter of what they paid for their flats – and all the while the work remains outstanding, they cannot sell or move.

This whole business seems very unfair on residents. Even if they did sign leases agreeing to pay for all repairs, making them liable, surely this work falls outside what they could reasonably expect to fund?

News consumer expert Richard Thomson believes the residents could have a case to fight the fee.

If they are to do so successfully, the first step must be for them to group together and seek legal advice on exactly where they stand.

But to the layman it seems extremely harsh that they are facing such crippling bills through no fault of their own.