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.”