Claim poorly maintained building is a fire hazard
(Left to right) Manpreet, Edel, Janet and Lisa Mbuanda
Social housing tenants in a Wandsworth tower block say they’re “trapped” in their homes as the lift keeps breaking down. People living in Wandsworth homes managed by provider Optivo fear their building is a “fire hazard” and claim their toilets and heating don’t even work.
Residents of 27 Enterprise Way told the Local Democracy Reporting Service living in the block is a “nightmare”. They said they have all been stuck in the lift, heard people screaming for help inside and seen residents crying on the stairs. They said their new intercom system doesn’t work which means “anyone can come in” when residents have to leave the door ajar.
Edel, who didn’t wish to give her surname, said: “We’ve had 40 [lift] breakdowns and they’re not like one day or two days – we’re talking about a week, two weeks, months.” The mum-of-three said: “It’s 16 flights of stairs to my floor. Trying to do daily things like shopping, deliveries, anything, it’s just impossible. There’s people who have got physical health issues and it really implicates their day-to-day life.”
She added: “I know my mental health has been affected by it massively, you can’t do normal things.” She called the maintenance of the building “very poor” and said she’s “constantly fighting” for help from Optivo.
Residents said they have been moved into hotels temporarily when the lift breaks down. Lisa Mbuanda, who lives on the seventh floor, said she’s missed hospital appointments and is in a hotel “every summer”. The 56-year-old said: “I don’t pay my rent for me to be stuck indoors… I can’t do anything.”
27 Enterprise Way, Wandsworth
She said her health had got worse because of the problems. She said: “Just from this situation I’ve got heart problems already because all the time it’s frustrating.”
Manpreet, who didn’t wish to give her surname, said: “My mum got stuck in the lift. I’m claustrophobic, I got stuck in there. My daughter’s traumatised since we’ve moved in, she won’t even get in the lift, she takes the stairs.” The mum-of-three added: “It’s the littlest things like the shopping, just getting food in your house. It’s so draining and depressing.”
She said: “They just keep fobbing us off. They want to ring us up for rent and service charge and stuff like that but they’re not actually doing the work that’s meant to be demanded of them.” She said she saw a distraught resident “burst into tears one day on the stairs”.
The residents also worry the building is a “fire hazard” as they said there is only one stairwell with “no ventilation” and some windows “don’t open”. They said cladding had recently been removed from the building. Janet said: “The biggest concern for me is the lift and if anything happens with fire, we can’t get out.”
They said they wished they had never moved into the block. Edel said: “Who is going to move into a building where there’s no lift, nevermind all the other issues. So we’re effectively trapped because the only way out of here is exchanging or leaving and going into private rent. Well I’m not in a position to go and do that. That’s why we’re in the situation we’re in.”
She added: “We’re stuck and we’re not only trapped physically and mentally because of the lift issue but we’re trapped because they’re keeping us in this position. They’re not offering us any other option. Given an option to get out of here, I would say everyone in the building would say: ‘Yes please.'”
Manpreet said: “My personal opinion is that block needs to be shut down. Everybody needs to get vacated out of it and they need to rethink their ideas.”
Behind 27 Enterprise Way, Wandsworth
A spokesperson for Optivo said: “Our staff are continuing to meet with residents at 27 Enterprise Way to work through the issues related to their building.
Although we’re not the freeholder or managing agent of the block, we’re working closely with our partners to address the concerns of residents living there.
“This includes matters raised about the heating in communal areas. We want to make sure our residents are safe in their building and we take fire safety extremely seriously. A fire risk assessment was recently completed at 27 Enterprise Way by independent fire safety experts. The building’s owner has also been carrying out work on the outside of the building to improve fire safety.
“We recognise the difficulties residents face when they live in a tall building with a broken lift. We acknowledge there have been significant problems with this lift, with many incidents relating to vandalism. We apologise to our residents for the ongoing problems and resolving this long-term remains a top priority for us.
“We’ve previously provided residents with alternative accommodation, including meal allowances, when the lift has been out of action for a lengthy period. We also provided assistance recently to help carry shopping and pushchairs. We’ve overcome some significant engineering challenges with the lift and last week were able to return it to service. The lift has remained operational since that time and we’re expecting a more reliable service going forward.
“A new intercom system was fitted last Wednesday (7 September) and our staff confirmed on Monday it continues to function correctly. We would urge any residents having problems operating this to contact us. Finally, our team are happy to talk to any resident who wishes to move home to discuss the options available to them.”
Charlotte Lilywhite - Local Democracy Reporter
September 23, 2022