Residents facing £16k council repair bills to fix flooded flats

Housing estate in Enfield Highway hit by persistent leaks and sewage spills, reports Simon Allin, Local Democracy Reporter

The leaks affecting flats in Larksfield Grove
The leaks affecting flats in Larksfield Grove (credit John Woodger)

Leaseholders in a “neglected” housing block hit by leaking roofs and overflowing sewage are facing bills of up to £16,500 for a major upgrade programme.

Larksfield Grove, a group of housing blocks in Enfield Highway owned by Enfield Council and occupied by a mixture of tenants and leaseholders, is currently undergoing a major works scheme approved by civic centre bosses in 2021.

It includes a range of repairs to roofs, windows and other structures along with upgrades such as cavity wall insulation and new communal lighting.

Long-term resident John Woodger said delays to the scheduled works had left residents experiencing flooding from leaking roofs. He added that leaks had been a problem for years, but the housing blocks – built in the 1960s and 1970s – had been “neglected” by the council.

With leaseholders now facing bills of between £12,250 and £16,500 per flat, John warned that many who are retired or are on low incomes or benefits will struggle to pay.

John told the Local Democracy Reporting Service that the repairs should have started in June, but he had been told by the contractors that the council had delayed the work until October – meaning it had coincided with the wet weather that hit the UK during the winter months.

“Flats on the top floor are being flooded,” he said. “The ceiling has come down in several places, and several flats on the top floor have got water coming in.

“A guy I know, [the water] is just coming through into his hallway and bathroom.”

A recording (below) taken by John shows water dripping heavily from a light fixture in a corridor ceiling, and he said water had filtered down to the ground floor in some cases.

Residents had been complaining about leaks for the past eight years, John said, but the council had carried out only superficial filling of cracks and painting of the top-floor corridor ceiling. Part of the problem, he said, is that telephone complaints had not been logged by the council. One resident was living in two inches of water inside his flat before he had to be moved by the authority, he claimed.

A faulty sewage pipe is also causing problems, John said. He told the LDRS: “When I first moved in in 2011/12, there was sewage coming up in the ground floor toilet and bath, and then there was sewage coming up in a drain that was outside the entrance to the block.

“So in order to get out, I could jump across the sewage – but other people could not get outside the block.”

John said he had been told by a worker sent to clear the drains that a pipe had not been connected to the sewage system and instead stopped at the rain drain. A local councillor had asked for the problem to be fixed in 2017, John added, but the council had not acted and instead sent out letters telling residents not to flush wet wipes down their toilets.

A few months ago, he added, sewage was coming up inside the corridor of one of the blocks.

John also raised concerns over a lack of awareness of asbestos in the buildings. The roof tiles that are being replaced are made of an asbestos and concrete mix, he said. Not knowing this, he had inadvertently handled tiles that had previously fallen off the roof.

Several other residents had expressed concern about breathing in concrete dust in the air and via bathroom extractor fans, despite being assured they were safe.

The bills issued to leaseholders have not been adequately explained, John claims. As he is not currently working because of health problems, he receives benefits and has savings – but he says this is “nowhere near” enough to cover the full cost of the major works bill. He accused the council of using leaseholders as ‘cash cows’ to pay for its neglect of maintenance.

“It is causing a lot of stress – and for me, sleepless nights,” John said. “I just want to get out of here, but at the moment I can’t. I guess I could try and sell this place, but I will have to knock £40,000 off the asking price.”

An Enfield Council spokesperson claimed the major works project on all of the blocks at Larksfield Grove “commenced on site at Hertford Road in June 2022 as planned” and there had been “a delay of approximately two weeks due to both materials shortages and weather”. But John said that was “ridiculous” and insisted no work had begun until October.

The council spokesperson added: “The roof is undergoing a full replacement and works to block 1-30 should be completed within the next two weeks.

“We are aware of some minor leaks that have occurred into some of the top floor flats during the recent works to replace the roof and have been in regular contact with those affected, conducting inspections, visits and works as required. We will be offering to visit each property when the roofing works are completed to assess any remedial works required caused by the roofing replacement.

“The council is investigating the concern from the resident about the sewage pipe and will pick this issue up urgently.

“All work involving any materials containing asbestos have been undertaken by a licensed asbestos removal contractor and in accordance with current regulations.

“How we apportion major works costs to leaseholders is set out on our website. We have written to all leaseholders explaining the works and the costs they are responsible for.

“We understand that bills can cause concern and want to ensure that we offer a range of repayment options to support residents.”

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