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Housing

‘I feel like the government is trying to kill me at work and at home’

Nurse Vijay Sisodia has spent the pandemic saving lives working on the frontline before coming home to life-threatening fire safety defects at Lambeth high-rise Kennington Park Square

For Vijay Sisodia the building safety crisis has piled pressure on to an already demanding work life during the pandemic.

While on the front line of vaccination efforts, the 38-year-old and his partner Daisy Connor have been stuck in limbo at their home in Kennington Park Square, waiting for work to begin to make the building safe and picking up huge costs.

Vijay tells The Big Issue the Barratt Homes-developed high-rise in Lambeth, south-east London has issues which meant Vijay and other residents were forced to pay for Waking Watch – a system where fire marshals patrol the building to report any fires to residents – shelling out an estimated £450,000. The monthly costs only ended when a new fire alarm system was installed at a further cost of £150,000.

We want to buy the whole place outright. But we can’t get a mortgage for it. You’re stuck in limbo. London leaseholder Vijay Sisodia

London leaseholder Vijay Sisodia

With no date yet set for the remediation work to begin, Vijay is furious at having to pick up the bill while living in an unsafe building.

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He says: “We might be looking down the barrel of £40,000 to £50,000 per household. That’s insane. And then also I’m a leaseholder so own 33 per cent of the property, right? But I don’t pay for 33 per cent of the remedial issues, I pay the full amount. It’s doesn’t make sense.

“Our service charge was £200 a month, then went up to £450 with Waking Watch. One of our neighbours has been selling furniture so that he could pay.”

Meanwhile, Barratt Developments insists that the property was independently signed off as meeting the requirements of building regulations at the time of its construction in 2009. 

“While we have no legal liability, we have been working to assess and understand the issues at the development and are committed to working with the managing agent and freeholder to help them find a solution for leaseholders and residents,” a spokesman says.

But for Vijay the building safety crisis means he’s left “twisting in the wind”. “We want to buy the whole place outright,” he says. “But we can’t get a mortgage for it. You’re stuck in limbo.

“As a nurse, I don’t think I can tell where one stress ends and another begins. When I went to work and we had no PPE I felt like the Conservatives were trying to kill me at work and then I come home and feel like they’re trying to kill me in this death-trap flat as well.

“Whoever is at fault needs to be made accountable,” he says.

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