Residents embroiled in a two-year battle with their housing association A2 Dominion over design and maintenance problems at their new homes at Rathbone Square were offered a lump sum to shut up, stop complaining, and engage their own contractor to carry out repairs.
The shared-ownership flats were built with a legal agreement between Great Portland Estates and Westminster Council to provide intermediate affordable housing, as part of planning permission gained in 2014 for one of the biggest redevelopment projects in Fitzrovia.
But since getting the keys to their flats in December 2018 the first-time buyers have had to put up with badly designed bathrooms, plumbing and electrical problems left unfixed, and continuing problems with security where street doors don’t lock properly, all while continuing to pay expensive service charges.
The 20 households formed a residents’ association to put collective pressure on registered housing provider A2 Dominion which has so far proved to be incompetent and unable to complete the repairs.
Little has changed since Fitzrovia News first reported a catalogue of problems in June 2019, says Giulio Folino who leads the residents’ association.
He found that even after creating the legally-recognised group and spending hours labouring away, filling out administrative paperwork and collecting the signatures of his neighbours, A2 Dominion was reluctant to deal with the association.
“They still try to deal with us individually. Despite the work that we have done to achieve this group they still won’t interface with us collectively,” says Folino.
A major concern is the still unresolved issue of the bathroom “wet rooms” where water does not drain away.
Things came to a head in December 2019 when A2 Dominion attempted to walk away from all responsibility for the bathrooms by offering residents a payment to engage their own contractor to carry out the repairs.
Each household was offered £2,500 to settle the issue on condition A2 Dominion could waive all future liability.
However attractive the lump sum looked at first glance, none of the residents took up the offer. Instead, they saw it as a pay-off to stop them from talking and complaining.
“The offer of the money came soon after a news article was published highlighting the incompetence of A2 Dominion,” says Umair Choudry who had to resort to taking showers at his gym to avoid flooding his home.
“They even set a very short deadline, pressuring the residents into taking the money. But it was a unanimous decision amongst us that we would not be taking the money.
“We were worried if the water started leaking between the flats, which would be very costly to fix, they would rid themselves of any liability concerning this in the longer term. We realised that we are talking of tens of thousands of pounds of liability,” he said.
However, A2 Dominion blamed developer Great Portland Estates for many of the problems. Steve Michaux, director of residential services at A2D told Fitzrovia News: “We are working hard to address all the issues raised by the residents at Rathbone Apartments. Due to design issues inherited from the developer, this is proving challenging but we will continue to do our best to represent our customers’ interests in this matter.”
Great Portland Estates have acknowledged that issues persist within the flats. A spokesperson told Fitzrovia News: “Rathbone Square is an award winning development both designed and built by a first class, professional team. We recognise that some residents have experienced specific issues with their properties and we are working closely with them to find appropriate solutions.”
A spokesperson for Westminster Council said: “We are concerned by the ongoing issues raised about A2 Dominion, one of our local registered provider partners. We are working closely with them to ensure this matter is resolved as soon as possible.”