Just four days since residents of Bridge House had their water supplies reconnected, and the taps in the block off Surrey Street are running dry once again.
As Inside Croydon reported last week, a faulty pump saw residents of nearly 80 privately-owned flats in the building on Waterworks Yard without water from Sunday night, unable to use their showers or flush their toilets over the Bank Holiday heatwave.
After being accused by the local MP of telling lies, managing agents The HML Group finally managed to acquire the necessary part for the water pumping system and restore supplies to their customers last Wednesday.
But even then, a leak above one of the stairwells continued, leaving residents concerned that they had been fobbed off with a temporary fix.
Today, Natasha Sumboo, the “head of marketing” for the Croydon-based managing agents The HML Group, said only, “We are aware of the situation and it is currently being addressed.”
Sumboo refused to offer any idea of how long the latest water outage might last. On Twitter, residents were instructed by HML to “keep an eye out” for “updates”.
Repair contractors Enterprise are reported to have been on site, and in a slow-motion action replay of the events of last week have apparently needed a replacement part…
In a message to residents sent by Christopher Keivit, HML’s “senior property manager”, and seen by Inside Croydon, it claimed that the water supply was reconnected at 2.20pm.
“However, Enterprise had found that the electric supply to the pump kept tripping, thereby shutting the system off,” Keivit wrote.
“I am working on getting an electrician to the property as quickly as possible to investigate and repair the electrical fault.”
As one resident said, “We have at least had a quick acknowledgement from HML.
“But concerns that the problem runs deeper and that the repairs last week were just a temporary fix seem to have come true.”
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In my experience as a block director the best thing you can do with HML is exercise your right to manage (if you have it) and sack them.
They are not just unreliable, they do not follow direct instructions and make up their own bizarre processes. The idea that they work for the Directors not the other way round was anathema to them. If an employee behaved like that they’d be fired. So I fired them.
I found their relationship with contractors to be overly cosy too.
The market for Managing Agents is shamefully unregulated. But don’t worry HML will turn the few legal rules there are against you in a Kafkaesque nightmare of passive aggressive waffle.
Just sack them. And you shall be free!
Residents have to take responsibility for their own situation by starting a Right To Manage company and then hiring and firing their managing agents as they see fit. The boot would then be on the other foot.
If they don’t then they’ll only have themselves to blame the next time they have an axe to grind with HML.
One problem is that how the system was supposed to work is that residents would all or mostly all be leaseholders. The explosion of buy to let and rocketing property prices now means that the majority of flats are not owner occupied but owned up the upper middle classes who regard the flats as just items on their property portfolio list. If you want to get into buy to let the 1 bed flat is your golden ticket. Therefore when as a director you call a leaseholder meeting it takes ages to convince anyone to bother to turn up. Why would a buy to let landlords care about water? The money still rolls in…. The leaseholders get ripped off but unless they’re also residents it doesn’t immediately touch them. In my block it used to be 50:50 owner-occupiers to landlords – now it’s 90:10 leaving me personally in a position of absolute power (or responsibility) as no one else wants it. The whole system is outdated and desperately needs an overhaul.
Unfortunately again I agree.
The development where I live (where I’m one of the RTM directors) had an RTM company installed from day #1, so there was no question of having to set one up which was a very good call by the developer as like where you live we’re slowly transitioning to (in our case) 60/40 tenant/owner residency and a good chunk of the absentee landlords are incredibly detached from what is going on with their properties.
It should be mandatory that developments above a certain number of properties has to have a RTM company. Although not everyone wants that responsibility, even though it’s not a big deal (and it’s usually a “burden” shared between several RTM directors) so no doubt it’s easier for the developer/freeholder to forgo that problem and leave the residents to suffer the consequences of having a managing agent they have no control over, and no ability to change.
> I found their relationship with contractors to be overly cosy too.
I might be able to explain why that is the case.
The HML Group includes many contractor/maintenance companies, and even an insurance broker.
HML managing agents will present these as “independent” contractors, or suggest they’re “independent” insurance brokers, and recommend their quotes (for maintenance, or buildings insurance etc.) as “the best offer available”.
Unless these quotes are challenged you may not realise you’re paying thousands of pounds (sometimes tens of thousands of pounds) more than you would/should had you actually obtained quotes from genuine independent contractors/brokers.
At one point we had a quote from HML to carry out £10K of “essential lift work” and one of the RTM directors queried it, got a second quote, and it turned out that no work was required at all – at most, possibly a change of hydraulic fluid, ermm maybe? That was the straw that broke the camels back for us, so our RTM co. binned HML and brought new managing agents.
And then we discovered – after the fact, thanks to the new managing agents – that we’d been overpaying on buildings insurance by £10K/year (for years) while using the “independent” HML broker.
Virtually any project bigger than writing a letter would have required an S20 with HML, because HML charge 25% as their “project management” fee. Most of the time this was enough to stop projects from going forward due to the ballooning HML induced costs. With the new managing agents, we were able to resurrect the stalled projects and get them all done without a single S20.
In short, the new, managing agents have been night & day compared with HML.
The new managing agents worked long and hard to unpick the problems caused by years of HML mismanagement and neglect, and we’re now at a point where, after 3 years, the development is ticking over nicely.
Maintenance work is done to a very high standard, by an excellent, reliable and committed maintenance team, and yet the costs are still much lower than they were with HML
In fact we’ve even had spare cash to make unplanned improvements to the development that would have been impossible with HML. And of course these improvements raise the value and desirability of all the properties within the development, so it’s win/win.
Repairs are now done within hours, sometimes a day or 2 at most (if it’s not an emergency), and certainly not the weeks or months (or never) as it was with HML.
Communication is first rate, and it’s thanks to our managing agents that we now have Thames Water camped out in Scarbrook Road while they deal with the main sewage pipe that has been blocked full of concrete. One of the ground floor flats on Scarbrook Road in Vertex House has been flooded due to the drains backing up, but we’ve not heard a dicky bird from the Vertex House managing agents (whoever they may be) even though we left them our details 2 weeks ago suggesting they contact our managing agents so we can coordinate our efforts dealing with TW. I guess some firms just like to operate in a vacuum, mushroom management style. If it hadn’t been for our managing agents informing Thames Water about Vertex House, they would still be swimming in raw sewage.
For anyone reading this, from Bridge House, Canius House, Vertex House etc.: do yourselves a huge favour and create a Right To Manage company. Take responsibility for the place in which you live, and how you live in it. If you don’t, you will regret it (as Bridge House residents surely do).
Companies exist that can help guide leaseholders through the process of creating the RTM co.