RESIDENTS of one block of flats in Poole have been shaken to the core by new fire safety legislation that could lead to them losing their home, falling into a spiral of debt or becoming homeless.

People living in privately owned high-rise flats covered in non-compliant cladding will have to fork out tens of thousands of pounds if money can’t be found elsewhere, the government has ruled.

Campaigners wanted the government’s post-Grenfell ‘Building Safety Bill’ to protect leaseholders from costs of removing cladding and fixing fire-safety defects.

However, the Bill ruled against this notion and instead states that landlords must “take reasonable steps” to find other sources of money - but if they cannot find this then leaseholders must pay.

The Aqua building in Lifeboat Quay, Poole, has been identified as one of the 22 blocks above 18-meters in Bournemouth, Christchurch and Poole to have non-compliant cladding and fire safety walls which are in breach of current regulations.

Bournemouth Echo: The block of flats are covered in non-compliant cladding - Aqua at Lifeboat Quay in Poole.

NHS paramedic and Aqua resident, Simon Mumford said: “I’m living in a potential fire hazard, working all hours just to have a good life as much as I can and now I’ve got this daunting prospect that everything I’ve ever worked for I’ve invested into my property, as people do, and actually it’s not worth anything.

“It’s had a massive impact on me, I work for the ambulance service and try to help people each day doing what I can do and no one seems to help me.

“You work hard all day and come home to your castle and you want to feel safe and secure in it but unfortunately that’s not the case - it’s demoralising.

“I feel absolutely gutted that I’m living in a worthless property that’s a fire risk and no one’s taking responsibility for it - it brings you to tears.

“I’m not a greedy person - I just want to feel safe, secure and not have any extra financial burden on me, that’s all I want.”

Bournemouth Echo: The block of flats are covered in non-compliant cladding - Aqua at Lifeboat Quay in Poole.

As outlined in the new Bill, leaseholders will have to pay up to £55,000 per flat for remediation works on the building - with payment notices currently being issued.

Another resident, who wishes to remain anonymous said: “I’ve buried my head in the sand about it and I am just in complete disbelief that we are being made to pay.

“People are losing their homes and their emotional and mental stability over it. I’m signed off work at the minute due to the stress this is causing me.

“After everything I’ve been through I have mortgaged myself to the max and worked endless hours... I never expected to have a £22,000 bill - no one has that sort of money.

“It’s really affected me emotionally, during the last year with Covid as well, it’s just been very very difficult soaking up all of the mental and emotional turmoil.

“After we got the last letter, saying we had to pay.. I ended up having to phone the Samaritans and I’ve never had to do that before in my life.”

Bournemouth Echo: The block of flats are covered in non-compliant cladding - Aqua at Lifeboat Quay in Poole.

With thousands of leaseholders facing the daunting prospect of having to front renovation works or go through a lengthy legal battle to prove their case, many are stuck feeling worried about their future security.

Resident of Aqua Uta Schmidt said: “Even if six years down the road you collectively get a satisfactory outcome, I can imagine that it feels like a bittersweet victory, because so much time and effort has been expended on an issue that should have been handled so differently, in the first place.

“One thing is certain. I won't be voting for Boris Johnson next time around. That's a promise!”

Despite sending multiple letters to no avail to local MPs, including Poole MP, Sir Robert Syms, residents at Aqua have been left ‘disappointed and angry’.

Campaign group, End Our Cladding Scandal (EOCS), have called the introduction of the Bill a “new era in accountability” but fear it does not go far enough to protect residents.

Giles Grover, of the End Our Cladding Scandal campaign, said:: “One of the most headline-grabbing initiatives has been that leaseholders will get extra time to take legal action against developers over safety defects. If only it were that simple.

“The truth - as the Government well knows - is that this is a David and Goliath battle.

“It pits leaseholders, already struggling with waking watch bills, exorbitant insurance hikes and enormous remediation costs, against well-funded, powerful and often aggressive developers who know the system is stacked in their favour.”