L&Q and Brent Council slammed by occupiers of 'costly' 'defective' flats in South Kilburn
PUBLISHED: 11:01 17 May 2019 | UPDATED: 12:31 17 May 2019
Dozens of neighbours living in new build blocks in South Kilburn feel "trapped" in what they feel are "defective and neglected" housing association homes.
Private owners, shared ownership occupiers and social tenants alike are united in criticism of L&Q, which manages Chase House in Hansel Road, Franklin House in Carlton Vale and Hollister House in Kilburn Park Road.
They claim a catalogue of issues includes regular disruption to the water supply with the estate losing hot water and heating every winter; leaking balconies leading to damp and mould; and a malfunctioning door entry system. Leaseholders commissioned an independent survey three years ago that found a "serious design fault that can only get worse if not dealt with immediately" with multiple balconies, yet residents say no work was done.
Brent Council has also been slammed for "promising high quality homes" as part of its much lauded South Kilburn Renegeration Master Plan.
Following completion in 2013, as reported in the Kilburn Times, Cllr Muhammed Butt said: "I was delighted to mark the completion of the latest phase of this fantastic scheme, which is transforming people's lives in South Kilburn.
"Regeneration is the main tool we have to create more jobs, better-quality homes and a better standard of living for all Brent residents."
Leaseholder Lucie Gutfreund said: "Brent promised 'high quality homes' as part of the regeneration master plan and in the case of Chase House it certainly did not deliver on the quality." She said she feared the phase 1 developments might "set the standard for the entire South Kilburn regeneration master plan".
She showed this newspaper evidence that service charges have shot up by 136 per cent since 2013 for occupiers of Chase House.
Piotr Berebeki lives in a shared ownership flat with his wife and seven-month-old daughter, whose bedroom now has mould from the direction of the leaking balcony creeping across the walls.
Yet he has seen his service charges increase from £130 a month to £280.
"I understand that things go up," he said, "but for some things we can't understand why.
"Communal electricity wasn't charged the previous year then suddenly a charge came out of nowhere and when we ask for invoices, or meter reading, L&Q don't provide this."
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Stephen Collins bought his "small" one-bed flat from L&Q in May 2013.
"The development was brand new at that time," he said, "so despite some initial snagging issues, all seemed to be well with us paying under £100 a month in service charges, plus ground rent, for which services were being delivered.
"Over time, the service charge has steadily climbed to the point that we now pay over £300 each month and the services delivered for that have dwindled down to the absolute minimum.
"The estimated charges are usually far removed from the actuals and contain glaring errors that L&Q consistently fail to address."
He was one of the 43 leaseholders wrongly billed £220 each for communal electricity charges in a different block.
"These high charges combined with little maintenance and potential construction defects, mean that our flat is bordering on being unsaleable," he added. "L&Q are letting us down. As an owner I now feel trapped and largely powerless."
Meanwhile, social tenant Anne Hawthorne was moved by Brent Council from her "dilapidated" flat as part of the regeneneration.
"Where Brent officers tried to put things right to make our lives easier, L&Q have a record of bad repairs that have to be done two or three times," she claimed, "sometimes taking years to get it right.
"They ignore, or put off, requests for repairs with all sorts of excuses or reasons and they do not check if communal jobs have been done to standard.
"Everything takes so long. There are many unhappy tenants because of this."
Problems in her adapted flat include her bathroom floor which is set to be replaced for the third time.
An L&Q spokesperson said: "We have resolved 85 per cent of queries relating to Chase and Franklyn House and are working hard to address the remaining issues. Our records show service charges have not increased more than 12pc in any one year."
A council spokesperson said: "Our partners are leading developers and housing associations, who have a track record of delivering high quality homes.
"All new homes created have met the latest quality standards."