Luxury apartments in prime Welsh location ‘unsellable’, owner claims

Despite being located in one of Wales’ most desirable locations, more than 300 flats are “unsellable” according to one of their owners. Set in a prime location above Wales’ biggest shopping center, 332 apartments are said to be “worthless” because of how they were built.

Chris White has owned an apartment at the Hayes in Cardiff city center since 2013, but claims that his flat is “worthless” and “impossible to sell”. The flats, which tower above St David’s shopping park are in a prime location but Chris says he can not shift them.

They were built as part of the 2007/8 retail development and now occupy one of the most bustling areas in the capital, Wales Online reports. Anyone would guess the flats would be worth a pretty penny but after putting his apartment on the market for £ 175,000 at the start of the year, Chris made an ominous discovery.

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He was shown the building’s External Wall System Fire Review certificate. More commonly known as an EWS1, this form was created in 2019 as a way of helping people buy and sell homes and re-mortgage. The process is only carried out valuation purposes and means a qualified person assesses the safety of the external wall insulation.

An external wall system is made up of the outside wall of a residential building and includes cladding as well as insultation, firebreak systems and cavity barriers. Category A applies where the materials are not combustible. Category B applies where combustible materials are present.

The certificate for the Hayes, which was awarded following a survey in November 2020, came with a B2 rating. This rating is awarded when inspectors find that “an adequate standard of safety is not achieved” in a building’s external wall system. It means combustible materials are present and remedial works are required.

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The block of over 300 apartments is in a prime location in the center of Cardiff
The block of over 300 apartments is in a prime location in the center of Cardiff

According to the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors’ latest update in March, where the EWS1 form shows A1, A2 or B1, lenders will continue to lend. However when it shows A3 or B2, meaning remediation is needed, they will only facilitate lending when there is a “costed and funded remediation plan with committed dates for starting and finishing all specified / required work”.

Chris says this means his flat is effectively “unsellable”. The construction worker says the situation he has had to deal with is “unbelievable”. He says has been in a battle with Landsec, who owns the building, since February, demanding clarification on the building’s EWS1 certificate and any planned works to satisfy the requirements.

Amid changing government standards, Landsec have now conducted another assessment into the external wall system at the Hayes, but are still yet to update leaseholders on their findings. However, while they have apologized to Chris and others for the lengthy assessment process, they have said that there are no life safety concerns across the entire block of flats.

Chris says that the location of the flats makes the situation all the more remarkable. While he believes he has been left in limbo due to the building’s safety certificate, he has been left appalled by the lack of communication and clarification he claims to have received from Landsec.

“It’s just incredible that this is happening here,” he said. “Here we are above the busiest shopping center in Wales. If we were somewhere way out of the city, it may not be as remarkable. But it’s unbelievable when it’s above a flagship shopping center like St David’s, where thousands of people go every week.

In 2020, the flats were awarded an EWS1 certificate with a B2 rating, meaning
In 2020, the flats were awarded an EWS1 certificate with a B2 rating, meaning “an adequate standard of safety is not achieved”

“I could not believe it when I found out about the B2 rating, it is really shocking. I’m not an expert in these matters, but when I was told about it, I did some research and realized that with that rating, I was very unlikely to get a mortgage. I’m wanting to sell this flat, but instead I’m being told it’s essentially worthless.

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“The lack of action to try and resolve this has been appalling, really. Landsec are sitting around doing nothing in my opinion. It’s not just an issue that affects me, either. It applies to everything that’s sat above St David’s 2, and that is an awful lot of property, because for one single building, this is absolutely huge. “

Despite Landsec’s assurances that there are no risks to residents’ safety, Chris can not help but feel concerned by the initial survey’s findings that an “adequate level of safety” was not achieved at the time of the inspection. Five years on from the Grenfell Tower tragedy, in which 72 people died, fears that something similar could happen at the Hayes play heavily on his mind.

“Whatever Landsec say, for me, the B2 rating says this building is dangerous,” he said. “Fire safety has obviously always been important but it has become a massive issue in recent years.”

“It may even have been the case before that a tenant would ordinarily think, well, I do not care about certificates and things like that, I’ve got the property I wanted and I’m not selling it anyway. But while my vested interest is obviously wanting to sell these properties, after the horrific events of Grenfell, who would want to move in here themselves?

The flats are built on top of St David's 2, which thousands of shoppers pass through each day
The flats are built on top of St David’s 2, which thousands of shoppers pass through each day

“You saw how many people died in Grenfell, people want assurances that this building is safe. But I do not think it’s safe at all. And while that’s the case, frankly this place should be evacuated. There should not be any tenanted properties while it’s got a B2 rating in my opinion, and God knows how the people who work or own shops in St David’s would feel if they knew about this too. “

Landsec’s investigations began shortly after the UK Government published the PAS 9980 standard – a new fire risk code of practice which applies to existing buildings across the country, including The Hayes. This new code is not intended to be an alternative to the EWS1 certificate, but rather an additional provider of information, outlining how cladding should be treated and defining what is and is not fit for purpose.

An update on the new assessment – made under the PAS 9980 which may alter the existing EWS1 rating – is now due sometime before the end of July. While they have acknowledged and apologized for frustration caused to residents, Landsec continue to say that the original survey indicated there were no interim measures necessary to ensure fire safety standards at the Hayes, while there are no concerns for the health and safety of those that live there.

Landsec have said that there are no life safety concerns at the flats
Landsec have said that there are no life safety concerns at the flats

A spokesperson for Landsec said: “The safety and wellbeing of our residents is of paramount importance and we will always take fire safety incredibly seriously. We have undertaken a comprehensive fire risk assessment on the building and independent fire safety engineers have confirmed there are no life safety concerns at The Hayes.

“It’s important to note that the EWS1 process is there to support the financial industry to make a judgment on whether to lend against specific properties – it does not look at the fire safety of an entire building as the comprehensive risk assessment does. We are also working closely with the building’s original contractor to determine any additional surveys or remediation works that may (or may not) need to take place in light of the Government’s new code of practice.

“We know that this has been a difficult time for some leaseholders and apologize for any frustration they feel over the time this is taking. We are in dialogue with residents and expect to have further updates in the coming weeks.”


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