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Saturday, February 24, 2024

Dozens of residents living in a penthouse-style tower block in East London without hot water for over two months

Dozens of residents living in a penthouse-style tower block in East London have been left without hot water for over two months.

Residents living in Horizons Tower on Yabsley Street in Canary Wharf have to shower in the gym or travel to the homes of friends and family after their hot water stopped working at the end of November 2023.

Inder Gill, a resident, believes around 40 flats have been affected by the issue.

Mr Gill told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS): “There’s quite a lot of children and elderly people living in the building, everyone is trying to pull together and push through but at the same time no one knows what the solution is.

“It’s got to that point of being over [two months] now and you just get sick of it.”

Mr Gill says he’s lucky because he’s able to use the showers at his gym but there are times when there’s no option but to take freezing cold showers at home.

According to Mr Gill, this isn’t the first time residents have been left without hot water during some of the coldest months of the year.

He said: “For some reason when the building was made, the boilers in the communal basement didn’t have enough pressure to send water around the whole building.

“In 2022 just before Christmas, the heating and hot water went down for about two months and now it’s happened again. Our service charge keeps going up but no one’s really seeing any of that being used to fix the issue.”

‘No one is doing anything’

Mr Gill says residents are feeling ‘lost’ and claims neither Rendall and Rittner [R&R], which is responsible for the maintenance, and upkeep of the building and setting service charges, nor Insite Energy, a company which looks after the communal heating system, are acting with urgency.

“It’s just been passed around quite a lot but no one is really doing anything about it,” he said.

A spokesperson for R&R told the LDRS that ‘strong progress’ has been made with the hot water issues but said major works are needed to get the boiler system working again.

The state of Esme Moore’s flat when it was flooding Credit: Esme Moore

Esme Moore is another resident without hot water. She also happens to be staying in temporary accommodation after her flat flooded a few months ago.

Ms Moore said: “I was on a trip for a few weeks in October and I came back and noticed the toilet was gurgling in a very unusual way that I had never heard before.

“I did try and clear it myself with the plunger but it didn’t do anything, nothing had changed.”

On one occasion, Ms Moore discovered her bathtub was full of filthy water with insects in it.

“That’s when I freaked out,” she said.

The next day, Ms Moore woke up to a nasty surprise: “When I got out of bed my foot was wet. It went everywhere, I freaked out and called the plumber who turned up and said it was a building issue.”

She decided to ring the out-of-hours building management number who said a team would be sent out.

Ms Moore said: “I waited about six hours on my own with my dog.

“During this time whenever any of the neighbours above me had a shower or whenever they flushed their toilet, it was all coming out of my toilet.”

‘We are powerless’

Speaking from her hotel room, Ms Moore said she wants R&R to be held accountable and has demanded residents have more involvement with the management of their building.

She said: “Everyone who lives in a big building needs to make sure their management company has a plan for regular maintenance and regular checks of their pipes [and boiler systems] because this could happen to anybody.

“We are powerless, we are almost held hostage by this incumbent company that was just there when we bought the apartment when the building was created.”

Another issue Ms Moore has been battling is her heating unit which ‘tops itself up’ four to five times a day.

She explained: “Originally the prices were about 5p per unit but then they raised it to around 33p [per unit], so every time the boiler does this top-up thing which is five times a day, it’s charging me 33p.”

A third Horizons Tower resident who is pregnant but wanted to remain anonymous claims there has been ‘little explanation’ for increases in heating charges.

She said: “[R&R] couldn’t explain our service fees and what we were paying for. We’ve also had an increase in our heating charges with little explanation at all.

“We’re literally getting charged every day for having no hot water, but we’re paying for it and it’s just never getting fixed, it’s ridiculous at the moment.”

On having no hot water, the resident claims she couldn’t shower for three days and finds it ‘absolutely embarrassing’ that she has to rely on friends every time she needs to shower.

“It’s not clear whether R&R have serviced the boilers ever since they started managing the building,” she said.

“There’s no one who can actually fix the problem, and then there’s been no clarity or indication as to what the problem is, who’s responsible and when the problem is going to get fixed.”

A spokesperson for R&R said: “There are several issues with the communal system which has resulted in intermittent hot water and heating downtime since the end of November and major works are required to get the system running efficiently.

“The new specialist supplier, Insite Energy, has been employed by our client, the Resident Management Company [RMC] for the development, and has identified the solutions for permanent repair. Insite Energy will shortly be providing timescales for each stage of the works which we will be sharing with residents.”

On service charge and concerns about bills, they said: “Service charge budgets are provided to leaseholders, letting them know what the estimated cost to run the development is.

“This is broken down in detail and leaseholders are also provided with guidance notes that explain each of the cost headings. [Shared ownership residents] receive their service charge bills from their leaseholder, Notting Hill Genesis.”

The spokesperson added: “In line with legislation, we also issue the service charge accounts to leaseholders, which are audited by an independent third party and signed off by the RMC [who are all leaseholders].

“The heat tariffs are set to make sure residents only pay for what they use.”

A spokesperson for Notting Hill Genesis, which acts as the leaseholder for 15 homes at Horizons Tower, said: “We are aware of the intermittent loss of heating and hot water that residents have been experiencing and have shared any updates we have received indicating when the issue may be resolved.

“We are in discussions with R&R and Insite Energy to discuss a clear timeline for when work is due to start and finish, but we recognise this is a complex project and will take some time to resolve. We will continue to provide any support we can to our residents throughout this time.”

Notting Hill Genesis has offered heaters to residents living in its affected flats.

On service charges, the spokesperson said: “We are ourselves a leaseholder and obliged to pay the service charges set out by the management company, which are then passed on to leaseholders as set out in their leases.

“If residents have any concerns about specific elements of their service charge they feel are unjustified, we are happy to advocate on their behalf by raising the concerns with the managing agent and advising them on the next steps they can take.”

The LDRS has contacted Insite Energy for comment.

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