BY IZZY WIGHTMAN
Residents claim they have been left living in unsafe conditions and fighting for their homes to be put right after a £2.5m programme of improvement works by the housing chiefs.
Macintosh Court inhabitants say they faced a multitude of problems – including ceilings collapsing, asbestos disturbance, burns from hot pipes, and repeated flooding in their homes from leaking roofs – after a restoration job commissioned by Lambeth council.
Part of the work was signed off last autumn, but some residents say the housing estate in Streatham – which provides sheltered accommodation for older people in 43 flats – is in a worse condition than before the work started, and the council confirmed some of the work is yet to be signed off.
It is alleged that In the last two weeks, at least five flats have had water coming through the newly-installed roof and one resident has been sleeping in the armchair in his sitting room since 2017 after water leaks left his bedroom too damp to live in.
The problem has not been fixed and he has not received a rent reduction from the council.
Another claims to have been burned by new pipes installed without protective casings, and others have ongoing problems with rodents and ants.
Janet Gayle, who lives at Macintosh Court, said: “They have ruined everything. We’re entitled to live in a decent home and that’s not what they have done.
“The way people have been treated is disgusting. Some of these people can’t look after themselves and it feels like the council doesn’t care about them.”
John Beechey, who was offered alternative accommodation by the council, said: “I was without facilities from June to September.
“Following severe breathing difficulties caused by the dust during the works, my doctor wrote a letter stating that my living conditions were unacceptable.”
The bathroom in each flat has been converted to a wet room and the pump to take away water only works when the shower is turned on. Mr Beechey said his electricity bill has nearly doubled since the new fittings have been put in.
There are also concerns at the temperature of water coming out of hot taps after the work failed to comply with government guidelines, with the recommended temperature control equipment not installed.
Regulations say there is a risk of scalding where water comes out of taps above 44 degrees, but at Macintosh Court it reaches 57 degrees.
The heating system is still not signed off, but Lambeth council said is has now written to residents to inform them that they propose to fit valves in hot taps to put this right.
Some of the residents have health conditions and are in their 90s or rely on carers. Despite this, some say they were left without washing and cooking facilities for 15 days.
One resident had builders working around him while he lay ill in bed. Others, who cannot use stairs, claimed they were told to use facilities on the first floor while their homes were being altered.
Residents have also reported steps made of MDF that can fall apart in the wet weather, a radiator hanging off the wall for months, and new switches that are too high to reach.
One towel rail was even installed upside down. Tom Cordell, who has worked with some of the Macintosh Court residents to document the work on film, said: “It’s a waste of the residents’ own money.
It’s money they paid in rent and it has been used to create nightmare conditions for them to live in. It’s scandalous.”
A spokesperson for Lambeth Council said: “We are not aware of residents being without facilities for some weeks although, given the nature of the works, which included new kitchens and bathrooms, there was some disruption to residents.
Steps were taken to keep any disruption to a minimum. “Some residents took up our offer of alternative accommodation, although the majority did not and subsequent resident satisfaction with the works was high amongst those who responded.
“We’re aware of the cases where water has been coming into flats. Based on the inspections of homes visited, there is no suggestion from the damage to homes of any potential collapse of ceilings, and therefore no risk from asbestos to the resident.
“Where damage has been caused to a resident’s home, these areas will be made good at no expense to the resident.
A claim has formally been raised under the terms and conditions of the warranty held with the contractor who undertook the roof works last year.
We’re meeting a representative of the contractor at the building to establish the cause of the ingress. In the meantime, steps are being taken to protect areas of the roof and balconies.”
The estate was first designed by Kate Macintosh to provide sheltered housing for older people in need, but residents say the updates have ruined the original design.
Ms Macintosh questions whether enough consideration was given to the legal requirements of getting approval to make changes to the estate.
The building was given Grade-II listing in 2015, which means building work commissioned by the council has to be approved by the council’s own conservation officer and there are restrictions on what changes can be made. But some changes fly in the face of these restrictions.
A council spokesperson said: “Lambeth council is investing up to £2.5million in refurbishing Macintosh Court to bring it up to the Lambeth Housing Standard (LHS).
The LHS programme has seen more than 23,000 houses and flats across the borough receive substantial upgrades as part of an overall £500 million investment.
Macintosh Court is a 40-year old sheltered housing scheme that has been given listed status, making its refurbishment a complex piece of work.
The vast majority of flats in Macintosh Court have had successful internal works, which has included new bathrooms and kitchens.
“The council has received a high level of positive feedback from many residents, and it is working productively with the new Tenants and Residents Association (TRA), to ensure the work is completed to the benefit of everyone at Macintosh Court.
“Where there were any mistakes relating to some parts of this work, we have acknowledged these, apologised and committed to resolving them.
Where residents have reported problems during the refurbishment, we have carried out – and are continuing to carry out – all the works required to bring Macintosh Court up to LHS for all its residents.
“All works to remove asbestos from Macintosh Court were undertaken in accordance with control of asbestos regulation 2012 and other relevant safety standards, under controlled conditions.
It must be stressed that, at no time, were residents put at risk.”