Herne Hill tenants welcome council improvement order

Dorchester Courts tenants protest

The London Renters Union (LRU) has welcomed Lambeth council’s announcement that it will serve an improvement notice to compel the landlord of Dorchester Court in Herne Hill to make vital repairs to the 96 flats on the site.

LRU said the move came after months of sustained campaigning by more than 100 its members living at Dorchester Court. 

Under sections 11 and 12 of the Housing Act 2004, an improvement notice requires landlords to carry out remedial action in a set timeframe to remove or reduce a hazard.

LRU said the residents had spent years dealing with lack of investment in their homes.

“They have had multiple consecutive winters of heating and hot water failures, as well as structural problems with the fabric of the buildings and rodent infestations,” it said.

In October last year, Dorchester Court had to be evacuated and one person was hospitalised as a result of a carbon monoxide leak in a temporary boiler.

LRU members have been battling with the managing agency Property Partners and their landlord Manaquel since the pandemic began.

They warned in spring 2020 that they faced a winter lockdown with no reliable heating or hot water unless long overdue repairs were made.

Despite a socially distanced protest outside the offices of Property Partners in the summer, they have spent Christmas trapped in their freezing homes. 

Lily, an LRU and resident at Dorchester Court, said: “My room thermometer was showing 9 degrees in my flat during the cold spell at the start of January.

“After emailing Property Partners to tell them this, I received a response stating that this is an adequate level of heating.

“Sitting in bed because I was too cold to move around and reading this response felt awful.

“I pay a lot of rent every month, and UK law says landlords have a duty to keep their properties safe, secure and warm.

“I’m glad the council has recognised that what’s been happening at Dorchester Court is unacceptable.

“How can we be sitting here during a global pandemic without working heating or hot water while our landlord is on the Sunday Times Rich List and the managing agency tells us 9 degrees indoors is an acceptable temperature?”

Ruby, an LRU spokesperson, said: “Lambeth council needs to make sure it fulfils its duty to residents of Dorchester Court.

“A thorough list of remedial action must be drawn up: this is not a one-off heating failure but a case of years of neglect, allowing dangerous situations such as the carbon monoxide leak to occur. 

“While the landlord is busy putting together a planning application for luxury penthouses on top of Dorchester Court, current residents are shivering and unsafe in their homes.

“LRU will be keeping a close watch on the progress of the improvement notice.

“We’ll also be monitoring the council’s response to Manaquel’s plans to build penthouses, instead of using their decades of rental profits to maintain the building and comply with their legal duties as a landlord.”