One Housing in hot water as residents of Stratford estate lose theirs
PUBLISHED: 11:34 23 March 2020 | UPDATED: 11:34 23 March 2020
The Aurora estate in Stratford has had piping problems since it was built in 2011, with the residents accustomed to losing their heating and hot water every year.
But the situation has vastly deteriorated since February 22, when property management company One Housing informed them that there would be neither for six weeks.
This has created an unacceptable situation according to leaseholder Rob Leary.
He considers the current situation a consequence of One Housing failing to properly fix the problem in the nine years since the block was built in Rick Roberts Way.
The company acknowledges the burden caused, with chief operating officer Chyrel Brown apologising “unreservedly” for the problems. She asks residents to “bear with us”, but patience is wearing thin.
As of March 10, Rob was advised repairs would take “at least” another two weeks, likely to be extended by the individual flat inspections required thereafter.
The company admits the works haven’t been done “as quickly as we would have liked”; to assist it has placed a resident liaison officer on site. But there is no escaping the scale of the disruption.
The affected area spans 90 flats across 12 floors. The first proposed solution was to put four temporary showers outside the block. But this was so unpopular — Rob compared it to a “festival” — that they were removed around March 4.
There were a number of problems during the period the showers were in place. The cold weather made it unworkable, as did only having four showers for 90 flats.
They were also next to the bins, and crucially, were powered by gas canisters despite known fears over the block’s cladding.
The company confirmed that those with electric showers can continue to use them, and free gym memberships are available for those who don’t.
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However, Rob says these must be purchased by the resident and charged back to One Housing. He adds that the company has yet to offer any compensation otherwise.
One Housing said: “Leaseholders will be entitled to compensation and this will be calculated and paid once the heating and hot water service is back up and running.”
Beyond the inconvenience of the situation itself, Rob and the other leaseholders are also frustrated by how certain aspects have been handled.
After the news broke, residents were initially told that they would be covered by Zurich insurance were they to seek alternative accommodation. This was a mistake, and One Housing backtracked on February 28.
This blunder further angered already aggrieved residents, who must shell out should they wish to live elsewhere.
To compound matters, One Housing wrote to residents during this period to warn of a potential service charge increase. This has since been confirmed, with Rob facing a rise of around £20 on the current £156 he already pays every month.
Rob resents being charged more “even though I get pretty much no service; they don’t even respond to my emails or calls – let alone the useless job they do for the building”.
Another leaseholder, who wishes to remain anonymous, says she has contemplated not paying the charge “as a form of protest”.
This emergency has accelerated the repair of the long-term piping problems, but the anonymous leaseholder queries how a new contractor can be installed “without a tender or resident consultation.” Those questions remain unanswered.
For Rob the biggest concern is the cladding issues which made the gas-powered showers such a risk.
He accepts that, although inconvenient, he will have heating and hot water again. But he is fearful about having these facilities in an unprotected flat: “They told us this week it’ll be five years until the cladding is fixed. I can’t understand why it will take so long when the buildings opposite us are being sorted. The hot water issue is six weeks. But five years is a ridiculous amount of time - it’s going to affect hundreds of lives.”
One Housing responded: “We take the safety of our leaseholders very seriously. We have been communicating with residents about the external cladding and the works required on their building. We have robust measures in place to ensure their ongoing safety.”