How is landlord getting away with these conditions at £900-a-month city flats?
PUBLISHED: 06:30 25 August 2018 | UPDATED: 19:01 25 August 2018
Tenants have reported a litany of fresh problems at a Norwich block of flats - ten months after this newspaper first exposed issues with the state of the apartments.
Earlier this year Norwich City Council gave the landlord at 60 St Faith’s Lane, off Prince of Wales Road, until June to carry out improvement work on the building.
The council served eight notices in February ordering the landlord to sort issues with the electrics, fire safety, heating and windows.
They also found electrical cabling was overheating and exposed.
The live electrics posed a “danger of death” to anyone accidentally touching them, the notice said. Work also needed to be done to make sure there was enough fire separation between flats.
The council later also found breaches under Houses of Multiple Occupation (HMO) regulations. They included failures with fire precautions and waste disposal.
Nick Sutton, from Faiths Lane Apartments Ltd which owns the 47 flats off Prince of Wales Road, said he was carrying out a “full renovation”.
But new photos taken by a reporter from this newspaper, who lived there for two weeks, shows her flat, costing £940 each month with bills, is in a state of disrepair.
Water is pouring down the walls and dripping through a light fitting; the ventilation fan has fallen from the ceiling, the corridor walls are covered in water and the lock on her door broke.
The reporter, Abigail Nicholson, 21, said: “I wake up every morning to damp hair and clothes, worrying that the smell from the flat will carry with me through the rest of the day.
“I’m saddened and shocked that the landlord, along with estate agents in Norwich, still offer these properties to rent, despite all the well-publicised problems there.
“The council should take over and carry out repairs. There are families there with young kids and I don’t think it is safe.”
Mr Sutton said the water leaks were caused by the flat above where the tenant had been evicted and deliberately flooded the apartment.
A worker for Mr Sutton’s company, Sutton Management, later said the problem with the leak had been fixed.
But last Saturday the corridor outside Ms Nicholson’s one-bed flat also had water pouring down the walls.
Meanwhile a sign over the electrics at the building dated January from an engineer reads they are in an “unsatisfactory condition”.
The national body for electrical contractors, NICEIC, said it was now investigating.
But Mr Sutton said the electrics were being repaired.
Student Andrew Patton, 20, moved out after just one week in July.
He complained the cooker was broken, the flat was still dirty from the last tenant and the windows were mouldy. There was also not enough wifi for him to work.
He also had to pay an extra month’s rent up front as a form of deposit. But the £780 has not been returned, despite him leaving more than a month ago.
Tenants complained last year about deposits not being returned.
They signed a licence to occupy - a lease used for serviced accommodation - rather than an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement which gives them more protection.
Under a licence to occupy the tenants have no rights to get a deposit back.
Mr Patton said: “I now barely have £100 to my name.”
He said he was assured by the agent the flat was as advertised.
It was only when he moved in he discovered the problems.
“The advert claimed they had fully refurbished the block,” he added. “It was advertised as exactly what I needed: a small, one-person flat in the centre of Norwich.”
Norwich South Labour MP Clive Lewis said the stories showed just how broken the market for private accommodation was.
“Landlords get away with sharp practice time and time again and savage cuts to local authority budgets deprive councils of the resources they need to put stop to the exploitation of tenants,” he said.
In response to the issues raised, Mr Sutton said: “We immediately offered to move Ms Nicholson to another flat which she refused and then agreed to the termination of her contract with no penalty.
“Wifi contributions are not currently collected from occupiers and we are putting in a new system as part of the works so each individual flat has their own Wifi.
“Any occupier who has a licence agreement does not pay a deposit. On moving in they pay the license fee for the first and the last month.”
•’My nightmare at 60 St Faith’s’
Jubilation. The feeling of getting a dream job, relocating across the country and getting your first flat with your partner.
This is how I felt before I moved to 60 St Faith’s Lane. That feeling evaporated rapidly - much faster than the water pouring down the walls from the flat above at least.
Living in Liverpool, I had neither the time nor money to travel down for viewings so I had to take a leap of faith – I was punished.
On arrival, I realised the video from the estate agent did not show the full story.
It was dark and drab.
Within two days of moving in, the ventilation fan fell from the ceiling, water was leaking from the apartment above through the light fitting and coming down the walls.
The communal corridor also turned into a water feature.
This experience has meant that what should have been a happy time for me and my partner has become a nightmare start.
By Abigail Nicholson
•History of complaints
Problems at the 47 apartments on St Faith’s Lane were first exposed by this newspaper in autumn last year.
The city council ordered the owner in February this year to bring the building up to standard by issuing improvement notices, giving the firm until June.
Landlords who ignore improvement notices can be fined thousands of pounds and prosecuted.
“Our next steps will be to look at the options available to us as a result of the actions we’ve taken to date,” a council spokesman said.
They added they were dedicated to making sure landlords were held to account and taking action when needed.
The landlord said he was renovating the flats. In October last year he was given planning permission to convert the 47 apartments into 41.
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