Monday, 3 August 2015

A New Episode Is Born

The Wandsworth Saga continues, without vampires but with a continuing leitmotif of damp and water ingress.

The latest episode began in the winter of 2010. I noticed a patch of damp on the wall of my second bedroom, which I use as a home office. I pointed it out to Mr Crawley when he visited in November 2010 concerning the previous roof terrace episode.

The damp patch was small at that time, and I wasn't too worried about it as I knew external works would be happening in the not too distant future. Naively, I thought it'd be sorted out then.

In February 2012, the damp patch having increased in size, I wrote to Mr Crawley reminding him about it, and that autumn the scaffold went up, and the external works were done.

Meanwhile, an intermittent leak started in my sitting room ceiling (my flat is on the top floor, so caused by roof disrepair). I reported it to the woman at Wandsworth in charge of the external works, Ann Whiteside (no longer employed by Wandsworth) in an email dated 5th August 2012. Again, I imagined it'd be sorted, because, after all, there would be contractors all over the outside, - you know, repairing stuff. Especially stuff which I'd reported as needing to be repaired.

The photos below depict the situation in January 2015, well over two years after the external works were done, works for which my share of the cost was £2,491.

No.1 - The Damp Patch: the pencil line delineating the extent in June 2012. It's grown since then. Approx 1 metre wide in this photo in January 2015 (click to enlarge photo).

No. 2 - The Primary Ceiling Leak. About 50cm across, and resembling a sepia creature in flight.

The damp patch is further expanding into my bathroom next door, pushing walls tiles out. Inevitably, the ceiling leak is also a lot worse - as of July 2015 it's started dripping in two places, with further soon-to-drip places visible, including by a dividing wall, and the other side of the wall is my bedroom's fitted wardrobe. (Also, two of my sash windows are broken). All this has been repeatedly reported to Mr Crawley. There have been numerous visits to inspect by Mr Phelps-Gardiner (no longer employed by Wandsworth) who said that a long crack in the exterior wall is responsible for the damp in the wall and that it was only cosmetically patched up during the external works.

Mr Phelps-Gardiner said he couldn't, however, find the source of the roof leak.

Then, lately, having written to Mr Crawley yet again, this time threatening legal action, a new inspector, Mr Brophy, came round at 10am on 29th July 2015. He saw immediately what was already obvious to me, and which I had tried to explain to Mr Phelps-Gardiner, that the roof problem is related to the valley gutter - which runs over the centre of my flat, front to back. It's too shallow, so that when it rains very hard, the gutter overflows into the roof cavity. (It is, moreover, an inherently idiotic design, to put a gutter in the middle of a roof).

There had been heavy monsoon-style rain over the weekend of 25th-26th July, and one morning there was a huge puddle on the floor, as the primary drip (from sepia creature) had shifted position. Anyway, Mr Brophy immediately called and arranged for someone to come the following morning to make a temporary repair to prevent further water ingress, pending a proper resolution of the problem. He obviously considered that it merited immediate action, just as I did.

Then, later that day, Mr Brophy emailed me to cancel the appointment for the following morning:

"I must begin with an apology with regards to the roof works.  In an effort to have a speedy repair carried out, I was not aware that [the flat below] was owned by a 99 year lessee.  Following a meeting with the Area Housing Manager regarding the proposed temporary works, I was reminded of the council’s policy that requires the agreement of any 99 year leaseholders within the building before carrying out any works, which I am informed also includes repairs to the roof coverings and in this instance to the valley gutter.

It is with regret and embarrassment that I have to inform you that the contractor will not be attending tomorrow morning."

I replied pointing out the Wandsworth's corporate policy has no impact on its contractual repairing obligations as Landlord under the terms of the lease. Well, that was the central point of a much longer email. I also pointed out Wandsworth's liability should any of my belongings suffer water damage due to its negligence in complying with its repairing obligations.

Mr Brophy didn't reply, I just got an acknowledgment email from someone called Sonia McDonald.

So, I am reviving this blog because this looks set to continue for a few years more, going by past experience; and it's a good way to keep a record/diary of events should I be forced to pursue legal action.

Today, I discovered that my downstairs neighbour has been having almost identical problems, with a leak repair which took over 6 years to happen (first reported in 2008). Again, not addressed during the major works of 2012. And, since the major works, there have been several balconies requiring repair, also not identified as needing repair prior to the major works - indeed, I doubt that a proper inspection was ever carried out. I emailed Mr Crawley on 26th July asking him to confirm the areas which Ms Whiteside inspected prior to drafting the specification of works. I await his reply upon his return from holiday.

Finally, somewhat incredibly, Ms Parris is still employed by Wandsworth. Just as incredibly, she has been writing to me about the latest (third) balcony repair, requesting my signature on a form to agree. This is even after I informed Mr Crawley that I am unwilling to engage in any further communications with her, given her failure to respond to numerous letters I sent to her between 2006-2008 about the roof terrace, given that these letters mysteriously never made it into Wandsworth's files, and given her notable failure to recall our meeting in May 2006 and what we discussed and agreed at that meeting. Nor has Mr Crawley ever acknowledged my complaints in this respect. He has throughout completely ignored the issue, never once responding to any point I made in respect of Ms Parris's conduct. 

Needless to say, Ms Parris' letters and emails to me are being dealt with in precisely the same manner in which she dealt with my letters between 2006-2008.

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