Residents ‘stuck’ in 18-floor Arlington House as contractors lack ‘wiring diagrams’ to fix broken lifts

Without working lifts some residents cannot get out of the building

Elderly and disabled residents on the upper floors of  18-storey Margate tower block Arlington House say they are stranded without working lifts because of a row about repair costs and contractors who have been unable as yet to fix the elevators because they don’t have the wiring diagrams and due to obsolescence of some of the parts.

One resident has even missed having their covid vaccination because they use a wheelchair and so could not get out of the building, according to ward councillor and Arlington tenant Rob Yates.

One lift for the block on Margate seafront has been out of order since October 2019 and the other breaks down on a regular basis and currently has been out of operation since last week.

The block is leased from Thanet council by Freshwater Property Management Limited, through its company Metropolitan Property Realizations Limited -which in turn contracts management to Parsons, Son & Basley. The 56-year-old lifts had been maintained by a Ramsgate company with the contractor familiar with the ‘quirks’ of the old mechanics.

It is understood a falling out over costs led to a new tender being put out for the lift repairs but the chosen contractor has been unable to mend them because they do not have the necessary wiring plans to work out what the fault is.

A further hold up is a tribunal case centred on a dispensation allowing PS&B to bypass any consultation with those holding flat leases about the repair costs, followed by an objection from those lessees and then a further complaint over the £826,000 bill quoted for the works of which leaseholders were asked to pay 75%.

There is also upset among renting tenants who say they were not consulted about the situation by the contractors or leaseholders from the former resident association.

A trial bundle is due to be submitted next week for the Tribunal to deal with.

The result is scores of residents having to traipse up and down the stairs; others that cannot walk up numerous flights so are stuck in their homes and deliveries being left on the ground floor landing if drivers are unable to get to the customer.

Rob Yates said: “The situation is despicable. It’s been over 4 days with no working lifts for over 100 residents. There is a resident with a wheelchair who has had to miss their covid vaccination, post is being abandoned on the ground floor, health workers are struggling to visit residents, and we have no confidence in the new lift company.

“I’ve asked all residents to email Freshwater at least once per day, every day, and I’ll be doing the same. Freshwater needs to fix this now!”

One angry resident said: “I demand Mr Freshwater comes to Arlington House and asks his elderly relatives to climb up and down 18 stories to get food, medication and their covid vaccine. The current way that landlords can treat their tenants is a disgrace.”

Another resident said: “I have to walk up and down more than a dozen storeys every day so I would like the lifts fixed.

“We only have one working lift and during the pandemic it’s been a nightmare. Some people have been refusing to wear masks and trying to get in the lift with you. There is barely any signage and some residents are still not wearing masks in communal spaces. That’s probably been a contributing factor in the three COVID deaths in the building.”

Deliveries left on the ground floor

A letter from PS&B says Griffin Lifts are working hard to find the fault. However, the letter adds: “We understand the current fault is connected to the wiring that is producing an intermediate fault that Griffin Lifts are finding difficult trace.

“Griffin Lifts require correct wiring diagrams to locate the fault. Due to the age of the lifts there are no correct wiring diagrams available. The team is working_hard to obtain wiring diagrams for this unit from archives to enable the technicians to trace and repair the unit.

“Today we are in the same situation as when the lift went down earlier this week with the lift not operational and this will continue until such time that we have secured the information required to trace and rectify the issue. Due to this I am unable to notify you of a date that the lift will be in operational again.

“To assist residents until the lift is back working we will try and help as much as is possible with  emergency requests, principally for elderly residents and residents with mobility problems who are unable to use the stairs.”

A PS&B spokesperson added: “Although it is correct that one lift is inoperative and the other lift sometimes breaks down – and is currently broken down – there is a contract in place to remedy the breakdowns when they occur and we are currently trying to get the other lift working again.

“However, we accept that permanent repairs are needed.  An application was made to the Tribunal in 2019 regarding permanent repairs, and Metropolitan Property Realizations Limited was directed to obtain an independent report.

“Accordingly, we obtained a report, which recommended works including installing lifts that conform to the most up-to-date fire safety standards.  There are ongoing Tribunal proceedings to decide, among other things, whether it is reasonable to go ahead and pay for those recommended works or whether less expensive works should be carried out instead.”

38 Comments

  1. Sounds like it’s gone passed its ‘best-before’ date.
    Time to demolish? YES! When too many things go wrong, you get rid of it. (like an old car). Don’t forget to move the residents out though.

    • Who is going to demolish it and at what cost ?

      Who is going to buy back 106 leases and at what cost ?

      Who is going to provide alternative accommodation for 200 or so residents ?

      Less forays into the land of fantasy please.

  2. Don’t demolish it. Fix the lifts.

    There are plenty of buildings which I think are ugly in Thanet – but personal taste is not a good reason for wanting them demolished.

  3. It’s time Thanet District Council, as freeholder, pulled the plug on head-leaseholder Freshwater, which is also responsible for the disgraceful shops below the block, which it keeps closed deliberately. TDC should take the whole thing back for free as Freshwater has broken the terms of its head lease in many ways. It can then undertake the necessary repairs and make the money back by selling extended leases to the sub-leaseholders. It could be a good-looking, desirable block with a little responsible management.

  4. Demolish. That was an eyesore when I watched it being built nearly 60 years ago. It was always built in the wrong place and remains an eyesore to this day.

    • Brilliant idea.. let make all those people homeless because Ton thinks it’s an eye sore! As if housing isn’t hard enough to come by in Thanet.

  5. Always trying to do repairs on the cheap these huge companies. Either put two new lifts in or demolish the place. It’s past it’s best and is an ugly stain on the area. Lack of maintenance is very obvious even from afar.

    • Any repairs to the building or replacement lifts would have to be paid for by the leaseholders the freeholder of the building is not liable for repairs.
      Any leaseholder that refuses or can’t pay risks forfeiture. Meaning the freeholder can reprocess the flat.

  6. As no suitable replacement accommodation will be provided for tenants the demolish option is a non starter, the Landlord Freshwater or whatever they are called need to carry out emergency repairs, if they won’t then maybe Cllr Yates should use his influence to have TDC take over the ownership and management of the building so that tenants may continue to enjoy living there safely for years to come.

  7. Put new lifts in.

    What would you say if I said “Demolish St. Augustine’s in Ramsgate- I don’t like Gothic Revival style”?

    Arlington House should be restored to its original condition.

  8. If they can afford money to upgrade that ugly art building and to pay hush money to council workers after dodgy deals then they can bloody well afford to fit brand new lifts at Arlington and cameras on the lift and stairs too to help crack down on vandalism and dodgy activity

  9. This is the same building that TDC couldn’t get rid of fast enough after it “twisted” in the 1987 storm, lease purchased by a cut throat investment company who’ve no intention of abiding by the lease or looking after the building and a good number of leaseholders of flats who would have agreat deal of difficulty paying their share for new lifts.
    A lovely building , marred by all the phone masts and lack of maintenance. Give it a few years and no doubt there’ll be some sort of joint venture between Freshwater and SHL. Until then good luck sorting it all out.

    • LC

      Where do you get these fairy tales from ?

      The building was leased out from its conception in 1961 – not subsequent to 1987. In any event the building withstood the storm with very little damage – a few cracked windows and a few dislodged breeze blocks – certainly no twisting as you claim. Other buildings in Thanet suffered far more damage.

      The building was originally leased to its constructors, Bernard Sunley Investments (Margate) Ltd who subsequently sold their lease to Metropolitan Property Realizations Ltd (part of the Freshwater Group) in 1969.

      Please try sticking to the facts.

      • Danny Rouse who says he was the former lift engineer has commented on the post, he would have the wiring knowledge. He has stated that one resident had his phone number and he would attend within 15 minutes when the lift failed.

  10. Will you all stop saying “Demolish it” ! Why don’t you say that about all the other tower blocks in Thanet? There are more than 100 flats in Arlington House – why should their residents be made homeless just because there are people who don’t like the look of the building?

    • It’s obviously not just that it looks ugly. The ancient electrics are clearly failing, as well as bits of rubble falling off due to “concrete cancer”. But I do have to ask the question: if Arlington House and other tower blocks are so wonderful, why aren’t people (including you Ms. Rees) campaigning for new ones to be built? It would certainly help the housing crisis (heck, I’d give further tower blocks in Margate and Ramsgate my full support if it saved our beautiful villages!).

  11. There is no correlation between saying that Arlington House should not be demolished and saying that new tower blocks should be built.

      • Actually, there’s nothing wrong with a few ,small, maybe four storey blocks of flats. There are a few with sea views along at Cliftonville. They look very nice with big windows and balconies etc.
        If Arlington Tower was painted cream with blue and white wave designs it would look like something in Miami. In a good way!
        Smaller flat blocks would be suitable for younger people wanting smaller, cheaper properties to get their first home. As suggested, make them look art-deco. We could have another Ocean Drive but right here!

        The trouble with Arlington Tower (apart from the appearance—see above suggestion) is how the maintenance has been sub contracted to one company that then sub contracts to another company that then sub contracts bits of the maintenance to another . And eventually, the people who do the work are some people from just down the road! But the owners of each sub contacting company along the line all get a hefty slice of the cash for the work done!! The residents despair at how much the maintenance costs and the actual people who do the work are probably on barely average incomes for the district!

        • Keefogs:

          Why you are sympathising with residents over the cost of maintenance – whist suggesting that the outside of the building is painted cream with blue and white waves ?

          Residents are struggling with the costs over the basic necessity of the lifts – let alone venturing into fantasy land over the cost of painting the outside of the building.

  12. It is about time TDC exercised some legal and moral authority over in effect their tenant Freshwater. In 2019 a fire enforcement notice was served on freshwater for failings in fire safety, some of which still have not been remedied .At the time TDC apparently had frank discussions raising potential breaches to their lease with Freshwater.Less than two years on we find ourselves again in a situation due to historic neglect with no working lifts in the building. In 2019 the labour group appeared to look the other way in particular Cllr Yates and Cllr whitehead when issues of neglect and dereliction of duty by TDC were raised with them as well as Freshwater’s role in the running down of Arlington House. So it is with welcome surprise that Cllr Yates seems now to be championing the cause of residents of Arlington House in full view of the public when previously claiming previously he could not act as he had a conflict of interest , as he is a tenant.

  13. It is about time TDC exercised some moral and legal responsibility over freshwater who are in effect their tenant. In 2019: a fire enforcement notice was served on Freshwater and here we are again due to historic neglect without working lifts. Freshwater TDC and Parsons son and Basley the managing agents ,have all conspired through indifference and incompetence to the point where where the elderly ,vulnerable and young families are affectively trapped in the block. At last our local labour representatives are now raising the issues of Ah neglect in the press having previously looked the other way and ignored requests for help over poor management when issues were raised with Cllr Whitehead and Cllr Yates in 2019 on numerous occasions. Freshwater need to get contractors on site working on the lifts until they are up and running TDC need to exert their influence to ensure this happens .

    • When did TDC last exercise ‘some moral and legal responsibility’ over anything? Its stock answer to problems is that they are someone else’s fault and responsibility to clear up.
      If it does fall to TDC, like public toilets, the sea front and heritage buildings then the problem is just neglected and left to rot in the hope that it can be knocked down if it doesn’t fall down.

  14. Cant fix it because they lack wiring diagrams? Well reverse engineer it then. Many complex things get fixed without a diagram. Or find someone who can. Better still its time to take the awful building down.

  15. Genuine question (to anybody): If it was condemned as unsafe, who would be responsible for rehousing residents, TDC or Freshwater?

  16. There are 17,000+ new homes in the pipeline for Thanet – no jobs, roads or other facilities – maybe there is a way out of this if the right palms can be oiled?

  17. The flats are beautiful on the inside, spacious rooms with stunning views. If TDC took care of the building properly instead of allowing rubbish management companies on inflated-fee contracts to mismanage the building, the long-suffering leaseholders would be much better off.

  18. The building doesn’t look like it’s had a penny spent on it since the 1960’s! I fail to see how anything still works let alone the lifts. I suppose with the clear lack of investment the leaseholders must have built up a huge sinking fund so why not quit bloody moaning and spend it! Either that or demolish the eyesore of a building.

    • Dee Luded

      There is no sinking fund – that is why the lifts have not been fixed.

      Clearly your nom de plume is most appropriate. You have no idea what you are talking about.

  19. haha John is right, there’s no fund. But, leaseholders have been made to pay for years for a maintenance contract for the lifts, so howcome they’re out of service?

  20. The building has not been properly maintained for years. What has happened to the lift is just a symptom of a disease. If TDC had any sense of responsibility they would be paying some attention to building that they still own.

    • The owner of the building is not responsible for paying for the repairs of the building. Leasehold laws allow the owner of the building to pass the costs to the leaseholders. Ultimately the leaseholders will have to pay for the lifts to be replaced. TDC are not responsible for the repairs. This is the problem with the cladding fire issue Re Grenfell the Buliding owners pass the costs of repairs to the Leaseholders. That’s leasehold law. Until we abolish leasehold in favour of a Commonhold structure like the rest of the world the freeholder of the building will continue to steal money from the leaseholders

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