Three blocks of flats slapped with £380k roofing bill on same day

Hassan Amini stands outside Dial House on Grove Road in Norwich

Hassan Amini stands outside Dial House on Grove Road in Norwich - Credit: Hassan Amini

Leaseholders stung by £380,000 re-roofing bills are locked in a battle with their property managers, claiming people are "struggling" post-pandemic and can't afford to pay.

The management of the three blocks of flats was taken over by Watsons in October 2020 — after its appointment by the building's freeholder.

The flat owners were hit with the collective bill on the same day, after Watsons said an independent surveyor deemed all three roofs a serious health and safety risk.

Hassan Amini, 65, who owns flats in the two Grove Road buildings in Norwich, could have to pay over £18,000 to cover the works.

Marlborough House on Grove Road, Norwich

Marlborough House on Grove Road, Norwich - Credit: Google

There, the 20 flat owners in Dial House and 11 in Marlborough House were given estimates of £150,000 and £108,000 by Watsons, which said it was "working alongside the freeholder".

Mr Amini is one of multiple homeowners so horrified by the charges they are in the process of setting up a residents association, and hope to ditch Watsons via a "right to manage" tribunal and run the place themselves.

He said: "We have just come out of a pandemic and it's really bad timing.

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"My tenant's flat did have a leak but it's been repaired and there's been no issues since.

"The situation with the roof is not life-threatening and can wait.

"People are struggling right now."

Hassan Amini stands outside Dial House on Grove Road in Norwich

Hassan Amini stands outside Dial House on Grove Road in Norwich - Credit: Hassan Amini

The news comes as Marlborough House leaseholder Alok Baluni said he was "gobsmacked" at potentially having to pay a £10,000 bill after losing his job at M&S Bank during the pandemic.

Watsons said when it took over the running of the building a capital expenditure plan was undertaken to see what needed fixing over a 10-year period.

Its spokeswoman said leaseholders will have known they would "need to spend money at some point" — and address problems ignored by the previous management.

She said: "If a building is not adequately maintained, it can affect the value of the property should a leaseholder decide to sell.

"The roof coverings had reached the end of their lives and need short-term replacement due to water ingress issues in several flats.

Alok Baluni, Marlborough House

Alok Baluni says he cannot afford to pay the money being asked of him by Watsons estate agent - Credit: Sarah Burgess

"We completely agree these works should have been foreseen however we can only act on the professional opinions given to us.

"Money spent now protects leaseholders' investments and maintains its value in the future."

But Sue Tickturn, 74 and a Dial House leaseholder, said: "We're not just handing over that much money like that.

"We're hoping to win the "right to manage" claim at tribunal, so we as leaseholders can appoint our own property manager — rather than the freeholder."

The final block affected is Yare Court in Thorpe St Andrew. Owners of the 10 flats have been given a bill of £122,000.

Watsons would receive more than £34,000 across the three projects as a fee for their services. 

Yare Court on Ipswich Road in Thorpe St Andrew

Yare Court on Ipswich Road in Thorpe St Andrew - Credit: Eric Cousins

Flat owner Eric Cousins, 72, said: "I really don't think many people in the block will be able to afford these bills out of the blue.

"I think they should build up a sink fund via service charges and do the roof two or three years down the line.

"It's very stressful."

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