The government has taken legal action against the freeholder of Vista Tower in Stevenage after leaseholders were handed bills asking them to pay a service charge of up to £208,000.

Grey GR Limited Partnership owns the freehold for the building. The company has not fixed problems with unsafe cladding which were identified more than two years ago, following the Grenfell Tower fire. Repairs will cost £15 million to complete and have not begun.

Since the cladding problems were identified, leaseholders for the 73 flats have faced huge bills and been unable to sell their properties.

The Department for Levelling Up, Housing and Communities (DLUHC) has now taken legal action, giving Grey GR 21 days to commit to remediating the fire safety defects. If they fail to do so, an application will be made to the courts.

The Levelling Up Secretary, Simon Clarke, said: “The lives of over 100 people living in Vista Tower have been put on hold for over two years whilst they wait for Grey GR to remediate unsafe cladding. Enough is enough.

“This legal action should act as a warning to the rest of the industry’s outliers – big and small. Step up, follow your peers and make safe the buildings you own or legal action will be taken against you.”

Among the leaseholders in the building is Sophie Bichener, 30, who said: “We thank the government for helping us, and leaseholders across the country – Vista Tower residents simply want to live in safe and secure homes.

“This action is a step in the right direction for the innocent leaseholders still desperately pleading with their building owners to take responsibility.

A spokesman for Grey GR said the company was “surprised and disappointed to receive the notification of warning” that the government is intending to take legal action.

Grey GR “are seeking legal advice and will be unable to provide further comment whilst this matter is proceeding.”

The DLUHC has also said that the Levelling Up Secretary will “consider issuing an application for a Remediation Contribution Order against other entities associated with Grey GR...requiring them to financially contribute to the remediation costs.”