The residents’ association for Margate’s Arlington House say legal options are now being discussed due to a catalogue of problems in the 1960’s building.
A Better Arlington says residents have reached breaking point with the latest failures which they say includes the lifts for the 18 storey block being out of order for almost a month, lights on the stairs not working earlier this week, the ventilation system not working properly since before last Christmas and people spending some 24 hours without water this week.
The high rise is owned by Thanet council and leased by Freshwater Property Management Limited, through its company Metropolitan Property Realizations Limited -which in turn contracts management to Parsons, Son & Basley. The Freshwater lease runs until 2160.
The lifts and ventilation system are due to be in working order from today (April 5) but Jess Search, from ABA, says the latest issues are “the final straw.”
Update: April 6 evening – lift reportedly working
Jess has lived in her 18th floor flat for six years and says she loves the property but despairs at the constant problems which, this time around, have forced her to stay elsewhere.
She said: “The ventilation has been down since before Christmas meaning there is black mould in some people’s flats, the lifts have been down for a month, bits of concrete are falling off the building and we can’t get any answers from Freshwater.
“So people have had no lifts, lights out on the stairs, black mould and no water. This is where we are.
“People in the building are very patient and understand it is an old building but they are now at the end of their tether.
“We are now looking into legal options. We are with the Federation of Private Residents’ Associations (FPRA) and they have given us some legal advice. We can potentially, if we sign up two-thirds of leaseholders, trigger a management audit although we will have to pay the costs of the survey.
“Something has to change. We have contacted Thanet council, as the freeholder. We realise the council has limited legal powers but they could try and get Freshwater to the table.
“We want answers to our questions, we want to know who will be getting the bill for this as we understand the new lift parts had to be made in Germany and cost tens of thousands of pounds, and that’s just for the parts, and just know it will be stuck on the residents even though we have seen paperwork from the previous lift engineers saying the wiring was in a bad state. Surely the electrics should be at the top of the list.”
‘No fresh air or drinking water’
One desperate message sent to ABA says: “Please, please order whoever is destroying Arlington House to stop. We have no fresh air with the fans out of action for weeks, we have had no lift for weeks with further delays to getting these up and running, and now we have no sanitation or drinking water for nearly 24 hours.
“There is no way of bringing water upstairs with no lifts. I am 75 years old and feel like a prisoner in my own home and if this continues I will have to leave my home of over 20 years.
“I rarely complain but slowly and surely, my home is becoming inhabitable.”
Resident Charley Dawkins lives on the 8th floor with her 12-year-old daughter and is a Freshwater tenant.
The 30-year-old has a condition that means she suffers severe pain and sometimes passes out.
She says having to use the stairs has been a struggle and sometimes left her unable to carry out her bar job because she is in too much pain.
She said: “I struggle and have to have an accompanied person as I can, and have, passed out when I’m in too much pain. I down as vulnerable but no-one from Freshwater has reached out to see if I am ok.
“ I can’t move out because those that did were moved up in Manston and I have to go to work and my daughter has to go to school in Margate. I have had to miss work which I hate but I can deal with it, there are others here who have been trapped in their flats and can’t get out at all.
“We want to know what Freshwater is going to do for its tenants, I haven’t even had an email from them, there is just no information at all.”
Charley says she has also been dealing with windows that have been broken since she moved in around four years ago.
Terry Scutt, 78, lives on the third floor but because he is a wheelchair user he has been unable to get out at all since the lifts broke last month.
He has lived in the block for 25 years and says this is the first time he has been trapped for so long.
He added: “It’s been horrible. I have had my son and daughter come round when they can but I have been stuck in all day every day. I don’t put the TV on until 3pm otherwise I’ll end up with square eyes!
“Someone does some shopping for me and sometimes they are all I see all day.
“I am in a wheelchair and have an electric one when I go out. I tried to get out the other day as I like to have Sunday lunch at the Promenade so my son helped but I got down to the second floor and then fell on him. I really need the lift.”
Terry says he was offered a hotel by PS&B but it was in Ramsgate and that would mean his grandchildren couldn’t pop in so he declined.
‘Back up and running’
Management company PS&B said: “Liftec have been working over the weekend to ensure the lift is back up and running as soon as possible. Liftec are still on course to have the lift back in service by 5th April, the date previously notified to residents. The ventilation system should also be up and running by (today- April 5). The Residents Association have been kept informed.”
Freshwater did not respond to our enquiry.
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “Arlington House is privately owned. Although the council does have a freehold interest in the land, it is leased to the building owners on a very long lease. The lease does not give the council any direct powers to intervene in the management of the building. We have been in contact with the agents however, to try to help resolve issues reported in the building recently.
“We understand that the issue causing the water outage has now been resolved. The lighting is now working on all floors, as is the ventilation system and the lifts are expected to be operational Wednesday 5 April.
“Our Private Sector Housing team will continue to support any vulnerable residents who contact us for assistance in relation to issues in their privately rented accommodation.”
Arlington House was designed by architect Russell Diplock, who also designed the Brighton Centre and nearby Churchill Square, which included far more simple residential towers.
The Brutalist block was completed and opened in December 1963, less than three years after it was first announced.
Flat owners – who can now count artist Tracey Emin amongst their number – and tenants have been planning to celebrate the 60th anniversary with a book, architecture talk at Turner Contemporary, residents’ photo project and open day but the appetite for this has been dampened by current issues.
Jess said: “We wanted to invite the town to come into the building and see the views but all this has gone by the by at the moment.”
Wow the service charges must be horrendous in that place 😱
There are people who want to keep this building standing although the building is in poor condition this brutal design building was good in its early days would any of them live there maybe it’s time they went back to the drawing board many on the town love this building want it knocked down including Arlington square derilict shopping centre the biggest eyesore when visitors come of the train i.feel for all of the residents living there it Definetly I’d a nightmare.
Have you even been inside? I lived in one about 15 years ago. For a short time. It was lovely. Spacious flat. Very well maintained. 24 hours a day there was a door attendant. The corridors were spotless and never had issues with the neighbours. I have been in “desirable” new builds that are horrible in comparison.
Judging it on its exterior is a huge mistake.
The management company are a bunch of jokers and are causing residents a nightmare.
There is no reason why the Council can’t force Freshwater to renovate the shopping precinct. That is separate from the block and its responsibilities are all covered in the lease. Ask your councillor to look into it – you’re right, that affects everyone in Margate and those are prime shopping sites, deliberately kept closed andshuttered.
What a cop out by Thanet District Council – freeholder who leased it to a property company. This is not a housing association or trust, but a private firm out to make a quick buck. The “Pontius Pilate” act from the Council is just not good enough.
TDC – hang your heads in shame ! You are the freeholder of the building as well as the land and your lease to Freshwater provides for the building to be properly maintained. You are also the Local Authority with responsibility for both housing and environmental health. Stop shirking your responsibilities. You should be ashamed of yourselves
FRESHWATER – hang your heads in shame ! You have consistently failed to maintain the building as required by your lease. You have failed all of your sub-lessees and all of your direct tenants in the block. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
PARSONS – hang your heads in shame ! You are paid to manage the building but you have failed miserably – time and time again. Your assertion that the lift would be working by 5 April was yet more another empty promise that has not happened. You should be ashamed of yourselves.
Thanet District Council as the freeholder if they so chose could issue Freshwater with a dilapidations order. They TDC would then have to have a survey carried out passing all issues over to Freshwater who would in return pass this over the the management company.
Part of the issue is the lease will be so old and out of date in comparison to todays leases.
No comment from Arlington resident and IOTN journalist Dan Thompson?
He doesn’t live there anymore.
He is more sensible than I thought.
I just don’t want any of the old dogs who had to go up and down those stairs to get hurt.
It is VERY lucky that no fire took place when not one single light was on down either fire staircase. SURELY A FINE FOR THIS IS IN ORDER??? It could have been another “Stairway to Heaven” https://stairwaytoheavenmemorial.org
Just another example of the UK spiralling into becoming a 3rd World country, after 13 years of Tory mis-rule, cutting funding to public services, and local authorities! Re: damp, spray a 50% X 50% mix of bleach on the effected area, give it while, then wash it off. Black mould will disappear, and won’t return! It may take a couple of applications! Mould will only appear when warm damp air condenses on a cold surface! So open windows and ventilate at least once a day!
That should read mix 50% water to 50% bleach and spray on mould!
Is it not a private building?
No Samantha, people do not buy a flat they buy a long term tenancy, and are tenants in law. The landlord owns the building and can charge everyone for repairs, and maintenance to “common parts”, that is parts of the building that are not occupied, but used by everyone, like the stairs, lifts etc . These charges will be described in the lease, so if you intend to buy a lease, make sure your solicitor gives you a copy of the lease before hand, and explains to you anything you don’t understand. Usually, the landlord should prepare an annual budget, which leaseholders have to pay for monthly known as a Service Charge. Notoriously, some landlords haven’t a clue how to prepare a budget/service charge, and often fail to include contributions to a “Sinking Fund” for long term maintenance, repairs. The landlord cannot make leaseheolders pay for “Improvements” without their consent.
TDC owns the freehold; Freshwater holds the head-lease of the block, shops and car park from them (which they have violated in myriad ways. The question is, does TDC have the bottle to take on Freshwater.
Another way of looking at it: 13 years of Labour being unelectable!
Three brutalist blocks in London Trelilick Tower ,Balfron Tower and Keeling house are all of comparable age to Arlington house and all are in considerably better state of repair to Arlington House having been subject to earlier major refurbishment programmes and or recent improvement programmes.
These blocks were built to house working class communities not to dissimilar to how things worked out at Arlington house , as working class families were rehoused from London to Margate . Unfortunately during the process of refurbishment ,privatisation of the blocks took place resulting in gentrification and in the main the loss of these working homes.
The main problem With AH is not the building or it’s residents but a recalcitrant head lease holder Freshwater an indifferent freeholder of the building Thanet District Council and a totally inept incompetent and disingenuous management agent Parsons Son and Basley. All of whom have conspired and colluded with each other in different ways effectively running the building down through poor or no maintenance , mismanagement and maladministration of the building, which continues to have a seriously negative impact on those living in the building. It is time local l councillors the local mp Roger Gale and central govt through Michael Gove MP shone a light on the wrong doings of those involved here and took action.
Didn’t have all these issues when United Lift Services had the contract with the lifts that were ancient, yet all new equipment blowing up!!!!
I think you know there were! One reason why UL lost the contract.
I’m sure that the company’s running all of this are all owned by Tesco.
THE LIFTS ARE STILL NOT WORKING AND THEY’VE CHANGED THE DATE FROM THE 5TH OF APRIL TO THE 16TH NOW ITS RIDICULOUS
The building is not ‘old’. That is no justification from the Residents Association. It has been severely neglected and subject to shoddy repair work and appalling management for decades. Pity those people for whom it is their ‘home’; not those who have somewhere else to go in circumstances like these. Any repairs now will be like a temporary sticking plaster unless good contractors are commissioned and the management actually check works – not just sign it off and hope for the best. After all its not their money. Typical ‘fleecehold’ which is happening everywhere but here the freeholders actually control a third of the block so leaseholders are even more disempowered. The building has got into such a state now that flat owners may need to be rehoused whilst extensive works take place. Just look at the examples of this in other brutalist blocks. It is no coincidence that the new lift has broken down if the actual fabric of the building is crumbling away. I don’t think this is the time to celebrate its history!
Where is the building’s history being “celebrated” here? Obviously it is not its age but its lack of maintenance which is the problem.
Install ‘paternoster’ lifts: Much more reliable.
The wrecking ball is getting restless!
There is one resident in the building who has worked to support it and the residents for years and years, winning refunds for residents (rarely was he thanked) and earning himself a ‘vexatious’ title because of his skill and knowledge in dealing with the management company, and who has almost complete recall of things which have happened in the past. You all know who he is. Why don’t you support him?
I completely agree with this comment alongside a couple of others that also work with them not getting any thanks for all the hard work they have done and continue to do.
The person you refer to was a valuable asset to the residents,he worked relentlessly for us all, He should not have been sidetracked by others who really knew very little about the running of the bluilding.
Despite what the Thanet spokesperson stated above the authority through its Officers and Councillors have a legal responsibility and duty of care to all residents not least those vulnerable residents living in the building
As a reminder to all interested parties a few years ago TDC issued a formal written notice to Freshwater requiring them to make significant improvements to the decoration and fabric of the communal areas of the building due to their dilapidated nature.
kent fire and rescue service issued a fire enforcement notice due to failings in fire safety measures and processes and procedures in the building and I believe some of which have still not been implemented by The management agents Parsons Son and Basley in their routine maintenance.