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Zurich Insurance plc
Building Guarantee
Zurich House
2 Gladiator Way
Farnborough
Hampshire GU14 6GB

Sirs,

RE: Islington Wharf, 153 Great Ancoats Street, Manchester, M4 6DN. Zurich Guarantee: ZK 07 06 02652

We write to you with regards to the above property which is covered by your New Home guarantee policy.

The purpose of this letter is to initiate a claim under the New Home guarantee for a number of latent defects caused by poor building standards and faulty materials. Many of these defects were identified by the earliest residents who bought apartments in the development in 2008 and have been on-going ever since, while other defects have emerged more recently. To date, remedial action has been funded out of the building’s sinking fund, accumulated via residents’ service charge. However, the problems originate in the construction of the building and, as such, we wish to refer the matter to Zurich Insurance.

The property in question – Islington Wharf (Phase 1) (hereafter Islington Wharf) – was developed by Isis Waterside Regeneration and construction was completed by Laing O’Rourke in 2008. The development was initially managed by the property management company Living City, before transferring over to GVA in 2010, and finally transferring to the current management company, Revolution, in 2013. As you will see below, we have access to Revolution’s detailed records of reports of faults in the building and the associated costs to residents since 2013; however, we do not have access to the records and accounts of the previous management companies, dating from 2008-2013, though we know that problems were reported during their respective tenures and substantial remedial costs to residents were certainly incurred.

In total there are ten areas of latent defect which wish to claim for, each of them is summarised below. We are able to provide further information in relation to each point, should you wish to inspect it.

 

  1. Excessive Solar Heat Gain

Since 2008, the majority of apartments in Islington Wharf have suffered from excessive solar heat gain as a consequence of a combination of inappropriate glazing with poor solar repellent qualities, and inadequate purge ventilation via window apertures.

We have recorded daytime temperatures in apartments of 40 degrees Celsius and up to 45 degrees Celsius in direct sunlight. Isis Waterside Regeneration does not dispute these figures and admits that the heat inside apartments is unacceptable.

Particularly in summer (though this is year-round problem), living conditions in the apartments are unendurable and we believe the buildings to be unfit for normal human habitation. Residents have experienced a variety of problems as a result of the extreme heat, including a requirement for medical treatment, the death of pets, malfunctioning of refrigerators and the spoiling of perishable goods.

Although there is no statutory maximum internal temperature in the current UK Building Regulations (2010), Part L1A requires that reasonable provision should be made to limit solar gains to avoid excessive heat. Isis Waterside Regeneration did not make such reasonable provision in the design and construction of Islington Wharf. The Chartered Institution of Building Services Engineers (CIBSE) recommends that internal temperatures in dwellings should not exceed 28 degrees Celsius in living rooms and 26 degrees Celsius in bedrooms for more than 1 per cent of the annual occupied period.

The temperatures in apartments in Islington Wharf therefore clearly contravene current UK recommendations. Again, Isis Waterside Regeneration does not dispute this.

We believe that the glazing installed in Islington Wharf does not possess appropriate solar repellent properties to keep the internal temperatures to habitable levels. Additionally, we note that most rooms in apartments at Islington Wharf have only a single opening window aperture (itself limited to an opening of only 50mm by window restrictors, which residents were instructed by Isis Waterside Regeneration not to remove for health and safety reasons), while some bedrooms have no opening windows at all, which is against the law.

Clearly, this combination of heat build-up from inappropriate glazing and a lack of ventilation in apartments is not acceptable and indicates that Islington Wharf does not comply with the building standards for new homes covered by the Zurich guarantee.

 

  1. Water Ingress

Many apartments within the Islington Wharf development have suffered from rain water ingress via their large picture windows since 2008.

The level of ingress ranges from trickling water around window frames to substantial torrents requiring buckets. We have recently been informed by the building developer, Isis Waterside Regeneration, that this rain water ingress is a consequence of a faulty seal inside each pane of glazing.

Over time, the water ingress from the faulty windows has caused damage to plaster and paint work, laminate flooring, carpets, furniture and fixtures and fittings inside apartments.

The faulty windows installed in Islington Wharf have therefore generated costs to residents (a fact openly admitted by the building’s developer) and justify a claim against the building guarantee.

 

  1. Main Doors to Blocks A and B

The original main entrance doors to Blocks A and B, installed by the building developer, Isis Waterside Regeneration, were single automatic swinging doors, accessible via a fob entry system or access panel.

From 2008, the doors to both blocks were frequently incapable of closing due to wind pressure, which had not been correctly considered in the building design. In Q4 2012, these doors were replaced with the existing new sliding design, which is controlled by electric motors. Each door is made of a metal frame which houses thick panes of glass. Like their predecessors, these doors are unable to adequately withstand wind pressure around the building. During high winds, the weight of the glass coupled with the pressure of air entering and exiting the building causes the doors to drop off the rollers and the motors to burn out.

Since 16th January 2013, there have been 40 contractor call outs relating to malfunctions of the doors, with the known repair bill being £10,779.

The total repair bill for the doors including the period from 2008-2013 is much higher, but we have not been able to gain access to the detailed accounts of the previous management companies – Living City and GVA – to confirm the precise figure.

We have been advised by the contractors who repair the doors that not only is a full replacement required, but some form of windbreak should be installed outside both entrance doors to shield them from the funnelled wind.

This confirms that the effects of wind on the normal functioning of the building were not adequately considered during the design and construction process.

 

  1. Boiler and Hot Water System

The 200 Apartments that compose Islington Wharf are heated and have hot water served from a communal boiler system, a boiler system which we have been informed by specialist contractors was not designed for the number of apartments it supports.

This has resulted in several catastrophic boiler failures, with residents being without hot water and heating for up to 2 weeks at a time, including in winter. Residents have been forced to shower at a local hotel or make alternative arrangements for washing and household cleaning.

Since 12th January 2013, the total cost of repairs to the boiler system is £27,161.25.

The total repair bill for this problem, taking into account repairs dating from 2008-2013, is much higher, but – as above – we have not been able to gain access to the previous management companies’ detailed accounts to confirm the exact figures.

 

  1. Cold Water Plumbing System and Internal Leaks In Apartments

As with the hot water system, the cold water system at Islington Wharf was not correctly installed at the time of construction. In order to pump water up to the 20th floor of Block B, a huge amount of pressure is required. During construction, incorrect materials and poor quality installation techniques were used for the pipework, including plastic hardware, unsupported pipes and several ‘right angle’ joints, which have been criticised by experts for not being suitable for the pressure in the system and thus conducive to bursts.

This plastic pipework had to be replaced with a much higher rated copper piping in 2016. A report done at the same time as this pipe replacement highlighted a number of other issues, including dangerous routing of water pipes over electrical systems.

The cost of replacing the plastic piping with more appropriate copper piping, including labour, in 2016, was £37,135.97.

More generally, problems germane to the poor quality piping and installation have resulted in several catastrophic failures of the cold water system of up to 2 weeks duration, causing immense inconvenience to residents, in particular during the summer months.

In March 2012, the mains water pipe located inside the building burst, leaving the residents of all 200 apartments without any water at all for a week. Such was the severity of the situation that Portaloos were installed on-site, bottled water was delivered and residents were forced to wash at a local hotel or move off the premises. The situation constituted a health hazard. The mains water pipe burst because no support structure had been installed around it – this large pipe carrying clean water for 200 apartments was completely unsupported.

Many apartments and common areas in Islington Wharf have been subjected to leaks from internal pipes causing damage to paint and plaster work, carpeting and internal fixtures and fittings. These leaks are, variously,  spontaneous or caused by the pressure generated in the water system when it has been switched on and off for remedial work, indicating that the pipework in the building is not fit for purpose.

In 2015, the main soil stack in Block B cracked open, causing raw sewage and waste water to flood down the wall cavities from the tenth floor. The number of total claims related to internal leaks is unknown, however the excess payable under the insurance policy specifically for internal water damage has recently increased from £250 to £2,500, something that clearly could have only happened if there were several costly claims.

The quality of the pipework in Islington Wharf has been called into question several times by contractors hired to make repairs, with faulty seals and poor workmanship being identified as the main causes across several apartments.

 

  1. Toilet Defects

Many of the apartments’ toilets leak due to the degradation of a poor quality rubber seal located inside the flush mechanism in the cistern. This causes very high water bills until the fault is identified and repaired.

This problem has been identified by an independent plumber who has conducted remedial work in many apartments. The cost of replacing the mechanism is approximately £80 per toilet but residents have also complained of inordinately high water bills and United Utilities has identified these as being linked to leaks inside Islington Wharf and has adjusted some residents’ bills accordingly.

 

  1. Noise Transference

A significant proportion of apartments in Islington Wharf are subject to noise transference between internal walls, floors and ceilings. This is particularly problematic around the floor-to-ceiling windows in some apartments, where normal voices and other routine household noises can be heard clearly in the neighbouring properties located above and below.

This is not only a nuisance but also indicative of poor quality construction.

 

  1. Window Cleaning System

Islington Wharf is characterised by floor-to-ceiling picture windows in many of the apartments, arguably the main selling point of the development. The system which was installed on the roof to allow regular cleaning of these windows by specialist abseiling contractors was deemed not to be safe and the windows in the development were not cleaned for many months.

Ultimately, the window cleaning system located on the roof had to be replaced in its entirety. The cost for this is currently unknown.

 

  1. Garden

The roof-top ‘secret garden’ at Islington Wharf was not adequately designed with regard to drainage and safety. The lawn is located on top of the development’s carpark and does not include a drainage system; hence after normal precipitation, the turf becomes a quagmire.

The garden is bordered by cheap wooden hoarding, which has previously blown down in high winds leaving no barrier to protect against the two storey drop. Initially, residents at Islington Wharf were informed that the wooden hoarding was temporary as the developer – Isis Waterside Regeneration – planned for the construction of an adjoining building, which would share the ‘secret garden’, hence appropriate walls would be provided in due course.

However, according to an application for planning permission submitted by Isis Waterside Regeneration to Manchester City Council, plans for the adjoining building have been scrapped and the ‘temporary’ wooden hoarding has been in place for eight years to date.

We believe that this presents a health and safety risk to residents and also differs dramatically from the design presented to prospective buyers at the time of purchase.

 

  1. GVA Property Management Appointment

As indicated above, in 2010, Isis Waterside Regeneration appointed the property management company GVA to oversee the day-to-day running of Islington Wharf, following the departure of the previous management company, Living City. This appointment was made without any form of tendering process. As such, the budget GVA prepared was significantly overpriced. Subsequently, it was found that GVA was mismanaging the accounts of Islington Wharf so significantly that the residents association demanded that GVA be sacked and undertook a tendering process for a new property management company ourselves.

Arguably, GVA was incompetent and should never have been appointed as the management company by Isis Waterside Regeneration. Additionally, Isis Waterside Regeneration provided no scrutiny of GVA’s activities and mismanagement throughout the period of the company’s tenure. The following occurred under the purview of GVA between 2010-2013:

  • £40-60,000 in overpaid service charges were not re-payed to residents who moved out. However, subsequently, Revolution managed to claim some of this back after the involvement of solicitors.
  • GVA had no consistent strategy for billing individual apartments for their use of hot water from the communal boiler system. Some residents did not receive any bills; other residents received inconsistent bills.
  • Over £55,000 of the sinking fund accumulated via residents’ service charge payments was used for the general running of the estate, not for emergencies as was its intended purpose.
  • Several important points on the agenda for discussion between GVA and the Residents’ Committee were raised frequently and yet were not resolved. One notable example was the residents’ request that GVA change the tariff for gas (which is used to power the communal boiler system) from an expensive corporate tariff to a cheaper residential tariff. After GVA was sacked, this matter was resolved by Revolution within only a few months, saving residents tens of thousands of pounds in gas bills.

As stated above, we have supporting documentary evidence and testimony from residents to support the above claims.

In some cases, the building developer, Isis Waterside Regeneration, now openly admits to its responsibility for the latent defects; in other cases, Isis Waterside Regeneration has not been responsive to residents’ complaints. We look forward to your consideration of the above and hearing from you in due course.

Yours sincerely,


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