Residents have been furious at the “lethal” and “horrifying” state of their flats claiming “it’s just torture”.
A group of up to 80 people living in flats in Portslade, Brighton, have criticised their management company and demanded better service after a series of issues have blighted their living conditions.
The maintenance problems include damp and mouldy flats, structural issues, and a broken lift.
The lift at the block of flats has reportedly been out of order for a month – and was out for three last year, SussexLive reported.
This has effectively meant some ill, disabled, and elderly residents have been trapped in the building – which has led to a “spate of move-outs” due to ongoing problems.
One resident Chris Schou, 59, who has lived there for more than 20 years, missed a recent cardiac check-up due to being trapped in the building.
He also faces missing more imminent tests, including on his lungs.
This is because the long-term resident, who has a number of illnesses including diabetes, is unable to climb the five flights of stairs to and from his home.
Steve Macrae, tenant and lead voice for the block, said: “It’s just torture for people. It really is hideous.
“To be honest, it’s quite heartbreaking and a lot of people have been driven beyond despair with it.”
The 41-year-old, who left a corporate job to work in adult social care, said some flats have fared better than others – but that it is a community-wide issue and everybody cares about each other.
The problem, he continued, is that there has been a “long-term level of suffering and a lack of responses” from Graves Son and Pilcher.
He said that the basic level of service has been “pitiful” and that “major lift failures, huge floods in flats, and massive water ingress” has been going on for too long.
He has also asked for the case to be taken to tribunal.
In response, the management company has said that the lift failure is being addressed and that it is “keen” to address other issues of disrepair impacting those living in the building.
Phase one of structured works to the building has been completed and phase two has been “regrettably” delayed.
Graves Son and Pilcher says this delay has been caused by a lack of funds due to a minority of leaseholders withholding their contribution to the works.
Resident of 20 years Chris Schou said: “It’s just absolutely lethal. And it’s occurrences like that that happen so regularly.”
In Steve’s flat there are “huge gaps in pointing that you could put a thumb through” and a damp bridge between the inner and outer walls that led to a “soggy, wet, damp” fusebox.
Meanwhile, in Chris’ flat water damage has led to mould and for a large chunk of plaster to fall from the living room ceiling.
A top-floor window also allegedly blew off the wall and into a room, where it landed on a bed during the middle of the night – nobody had been sleeping in it but there had apparently been plans for a guest.
Work to replace the window is said to have happened quickly and in relation to the incident.
Graves Son and Pilcher responded: “Under the terms of the lease windows are part of the demised premises so any repairs to windows would be the responsibility of the leaseholder.”
Steve suggested there could be thousands of people in the UK living in similar conditions.
A fact that his MP Peter Kyle, who represents Hove and Portslade, has backed up.
The MP praised the residents for standing up for themselves. He said: “Mr Macrae is refusing to accept poor conditions and service whilst paying high charges and I am so proud of him for saying ‘no, this is not acceptable’.”
He continued: “My office has had to deal with an increasing amount of calls for help and queries about how to deal with poor management agencies, high charges, woeful performance, and a lack of accountability.
“The system is challenging to deal with, complicated, and expensive, and it’s just not fair on renters.
“We need a system which is fairer, has more of a level playing field between those involved, and more accountability.”
Graves Son and Pilcher responded to a request for comment, it said: “Otis Lifts has advised the nature of the repair and is currently awaiting the parts to complete the work.
“The necessary work has been fully instructed. We continue to engage with the contractor to complete the work as soon as possible.”
It added that phase one of a structured works programme has been completed following delays due to the pandemic.
It also said that phase two has been scheduled and “can commence when all contributions have been received.”
It said: “Regrettably, there has also been a delay to phase 2, caused by a lack of funds due to a minority of leaseholders withholding their contribution.
“The freeholder’s solicitors have been actively pursuing these leaseholders and some of the outstanding funds have now been paid.
“We very much hope that further payments will be made shortly so that we can instruct the second phase to begin.”
Graves Son and Pilcher added: “Chartered Building Surveyors have recently been on site to complete further detailed inspections and to speak directly with concerned leaseholders although they have been denied entry in some instances.
“We are keen to address the problems encountered by a number of flats just as soon as the funds are in place, since we are aware of the negative impact these issues are having on the lives of the leaseholders in question.
“An important part of this process has been to explain the challenges posed by ‘latent defects’ (due to the original design, materials, workmanship etc. of the building).
“Which may not be covered by the funds raised or resolved by the planned works.
“That said, the surveyors have taken into account all the defects that have been reported and will endeavour to include as many as possible, in addition to the previously identified defects, in the new specification.”