University College London Hospital Charity sells its staff accommodation
Barclays Corporate Wealth, Marcus Cooper and Oakmayne in deal to sell on studio flats as investment properties and buy-to-let
Dozens of hospital workers are facing eviction after their buildings were sold to property developers taking advantage of the demand for investment properties in central London. Nurses, doctors and cleaning staff who were tenants of University College London Hospital Charity at several sites in Fitzrovia received letters in October telling them they had a new landlord who required vacant possession of the small flats.
Tenants in 39 flats who are mostly workers in the nearby hospital buildings clustered around Euston Road, Gower Street and Tottenham Court Road are now being asked to leave and have received notices to quit.
Terrified hospital workers told Fitzrovia News how they received eviction notices a month before Christmas.
“Two men knocked on my door, one with a security uniform with ‘dog handler’ on it,” said a resident of over ten years’ occupancy.
“They served the eviction papers and made us sign to say we had received them,” she stated.
“For those who did not answer they taped the notice on their door and photographed it to prove it was there. And a letter was put under the door. Another came by post the next day. We were made to feel like criminals. I have never felt any thing like it before.
“It was terrifying, and I was left badly shaken by it. They really put the frighteners on us. It was like something out of a television crime programme.
“They have told us we have got to be out by January 31.”
Since the sale the tenants say that nobody is dealing with emergencies such as flooding or light failure.
At a meeting arranged by the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association in November the tenants told a legal advisor from the Central London Law Centre about their circumstances. Fitzrovia News spoke to several of these tenants who work shifts at the nearby Hospitals. We were told that almost all the tenants work for the hospital whose charitable arm has sold off their homes.
The tenants were also shocked to find that their homes were listed on websites as “investments opportunities” before they were notified of the new landlords. The flats were being marketed to international investors and even featured in a Hong Kong newspaper.
In October the Hong Kong Standard ran a story saying:
savvy investors always looking for an opportunity to buy into the central London residential market, Fitzrovia Collection, located in the heart of the West End, is not to be missed.
Cleveland Residences offers 25 one- bedroom pied-a-terre, plus three three- bedroom apartments, while Highwood House, located opposite the University of Westminster, offers 16 one- and two- bedroom apartments.
What the newspaper did not reveal was that the nearly all the flats are currently occupied by hospital staff and that these would be kicked out to make way for the “savvy investors”.
The new landlords are Pendragon Properties Limited who are registered as a company off-shore in Guernsey. According to the Guernsey Registry, Pendragon were formed by Barclays Corporate Wealth in July 2012. Pendragon have appointed the Marcus Cooper Group in Finchely Road to manage the properties. In turn Cooper have teamed up with Oakmayne to give the properties a makeover before selling them with 999 year leases.
Estate Agents Fraser & Co are marketing the properties in the UK and and the far east. In October Fraser & Co organised an exhibition in Hong Kong. This follows the recent marketing of the neighbouring yet-to-be-built Fitzroy Place apartments which were promoted to far eastern investors.
Most of the hospital workers currently living in the flats are paying rent of between £800 and £1500 a month. The tenants have been instructed by solicitors acting for Pendragon Properties to pay their rent to Pendragon’s offices at the same address as the Marcus Cooper Group in Finchely Road. The Marcus Cooper Group are the appointed agents.
Marcus Cooper and Oakmayne are selling the flats with prices from £548,700 as investments and buy-to-let suggesting a rental income of more than £2,000 a month.
Barclays Corporate Wealth make a number of claims of “social responsibility” including: “Investing in and supporting local communities”, and “Acting fairly, ethically and with integrity in everything that we do”.
Fitzrovia News contacted Barclays Corporate Wealth and suggested that the acquisition and quick sell-off of these properties is one of the worst examples of corporate greed that we have seen in our neighbourhood. We told them they are not only going to evict these tenants but they did not even have the courtesy to tell them before they started advertising the properties on the international market. Furthermore, Pendragon Properties Limited, the company they created, is based off-shore and will benefit from a tax advantage.
Barclays Corporate Wealth declined to comment.
The properties at sites in Goodge Street and Cleveland Street in London Borough of Camden, and New Cavendish Street in City of Westminster were acquired by the Middlesex Hospital in the 1920s and 1930s and were owned by one of the many Middlesex Hospital charities. The flats eventually ended up under the control of UCLH Charity after several of the original charities were merged into one.
UCLH Charity have told the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association that they were unaware of Pendragon Properties plans to evict the nurses, doctors and cleaning staff. In an email seen by Fitzrovia News a spokesperson for UCLH Charity said:
As soon as the Charity became aware (via the Internet) of what was happening they delayed completion to give time to review the position and put in place some assistance to those residents who may be affected, particularly current and retired hospital staff. I wrote to all tenants on Friday 19 October giving as much detail as we had on the new management arrangements and details of support from various bodies such as the Peabody Trust, the NHS Foundation Trust, Genesis Housing Association and details of local letting agents.
John Astor House in Foley Street which was also owned by UCLH Charity has also been sold. Its new owners are Genesis Housing Association. The building is named after John Astor (Lord Astor of Hever) who anonymously gave the nurses home building to the Middlesex Hospital along with Astor College the students hall of residence. He also gifted the Windeyer Building, recently demolished. (See The Middlesex Hospital)
Emerson Bainbridge House in Cleveland Street is also for sale. It is owned by the UCLH NHS Foundation Trust who own the new hospital on Euston Road. This building was to have been bought by Soho Housing Association and be converted into 14 flats, seven of which will be used as accommodation for local police officers. However, Soho Housing withdrew from the purchase in November. The former tenants some of whom are also hospital staff have moved out but Fitzrovia News does not know if they have been accommodated elsewhere.
This is perhaps the largest sell off of hospital assets locally for many years but it is part of trend that has seen buildings in Huntley Street and Eastcastle Street sold several years ago. Many of the staff living there ended up being transfered to flats in Cleveland Residences and Highwood House.
Around 10 of the older tenants have a legal right to stay due to their length of tenancies. All those facing eviction are assured shorthold tenants. Although the workers accommodation was not officially affordable housing, their relatively cheap rents (between £800 to £1,500 a month) were comparable to intermediate affordable housing which can be around 65 percent of market rents.
The hospital workers now have little chance of finding similar accommodation nearby. They will be separated from their neighbours and community of many years, and could face difficulties continuing to work at the hospitals as they could be priced out of London or unable to find alternative accommodation due to London’s housing shortage.
This local housing shortage is now exacerbated by the plans of Pendragon Properties, The Marcus Cooper Group and Oakmayne to turn the former hospital workers flats into luxury pied-a-terre accommodation, a trend of super-gentrification in Fitzrovia that has been gathering pace over the last few years.
In a letter to the Camden New Journal a local resident wrote:
The sale of flats in Cleveland Street by the UCLH Charitable Trust suggests that some of the practices of the Rachman era have not completely disappeared. By evicting National Health Service employees the Trust is being neither charitable nor ethical by exploiting the overheated housing market in Fitzrovia.
It is a view shared by many people who live and work in Fitzrovia. The editors and contributors of Fitzrovia News would add that this sell off of hospital staff homes is a scandal and a disgrace.
Frank Dobson MP in a letter, sent to the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association and the tenants this week, said he had asked UCLH Charity not to go ahead with the sale which he described as “a callous and anti-social transaction”. He criticised UCLH Charity saying they decided to go ahead with “no concern” for the hospital workers’ future.
We originally published the following paragraph in the article:
Emerson Bainbridge House in Cleveland Street has also been sold. It was owned by the UCLH NHS Foundation Trust who own the new hospital on Euston Road. This building has been bought by Soho Housing Association and is to be converted into 14 flats, seven of which will be used as accommodation for local police officers. The former tenants some of whom are also hospital staff have moved out but Fitzrovia News does not know if they have been accommodated elsewhere.
We have been contacted by representatives of Soho Housing who have said: “Soho Housing withdrew from the the purchase of Cleveland Street last month”. Fitzrovia News apologises for the error.