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Life on hold.

Crippling costs.

Safety fears.

15 Zenith Close
Prisoners in our own homes.

Despite being just six years old, 15 Zenith Close was built with significant defects by its developer Hill Group. Information from freeholder and housing association Notting Hill Genesis has meanwhile been incorrect, confusing and inconsistent, so we have set out the real situation below.

Potential Costs

We are potentially facing huge personal costs for remediating the building. The interim measures to keep us safe are already unaffordable, and that's before actually fixing the building:

Residents trapped for:

Waking watch cost to date:

FAQ

Disclaimer: Please note, we are not lawyers and you should not rely on this without consulting your own legal advice. This is, however, our best understanding of the current situation until we have raised enough money to instruct our own lawyers to verify this.

Why are we in this situation?

15 Zenith Close should have passed its EWS1 survey with flying colours, but when the survey was carried out, significant safety problems were found.

Hill Group, the developer of the building, constructed the tower without cavity barriers in place around its windows and other openings. It is our understanding from our freeholder that Hill also didn’t construct the building in line with the original approved plans.

The cladding system that was installed at 15 Zenith is usually considered perfectly safe. However, the omission of cavity barriers by Hill means that fire can easily spread throughout the cladding, putting residents' lives at risk.

We have been told by NHG that Hill Group also built the cladding in a different way and with different parts to the plans that were submitted. This was not in line with the manufacturer’s certified design, and has therefore not been proven to be effective against fire.

Response of Hill Group

After receiving press coverage by LBC, Hill Group responded as follows:

Zenith Close was completed in April 2014 and was approved by Building Control at the time.

To debunk Hill's response, the approval of Building Control was based on plans which we understand from Notting Hill Genesis that Hill did not actually follow.

Shouldn’t the developer pay for this?

We have been told by Notting Hill Genesis that this is a "clear-cut case of developer fault," on a building that should be well within its 12-year warranty. However, Hill Group is arguing using a raft of technicalities to avoid the cost of rectifying the building and to push these costs onto the residents, in a building that's just 6 years old.

The longer these arguments go on for:

While these arguments continue there is a clear disregard for residents' safety, lives, and for simply doing the right thing.

Are these costs definitely being passed on?

Notting Hill Genesis have previously stated that they will only pass on these costs as a last resort if they cannot be charged back to the developer or covered by insurance. They have, however, laid the groundwork to charge residents by serving Section 20 notices and are clearly anticipating there is a realistic chance of passing on the costs to leaseholders.

For how long will we be in this situation?

Notting Hill Genesis has told us that negotiations with the developer are expected to take at least 12 to 18 months, especially given how difficult the developer, Hill Group, is being. The total time until the building is rectified is anticipated to take around 42 months (three and a half years).

Can still I sell my flat?

The short answer is no. Until the building is fixed, banks will not provide new mortgages on it for any future buyers. The EWS form that Notting Hill Genesis has sent residents only confirms that the building has failed its inspection. By NHG’s own admission, the current status of the building will not be satisfactory for any lenders to lend against.

Until the building is rectified, we will all be mortgage prisoners. We are also potentially liable for life-changing bills to cover making our homes safe, unless talks with Hill Group are eventually successful.

Doesn’t the government fund cover this building?

The government fund for buildings with non-aluminium composite (ACM) cladding, such as Zenith, is anticipated to only cover buildings where rectification work is scheduled to begin by 31st March 2021. It is unlikely that Zenith will fall into this category; therefore, we are unlikely to benefit from such funds.

What about our NHBC insurance?

NHBC did not sign off on the work at Zenith, which means that the insurance policy will only cover damage caused by defects, rather than rectifying those defects themselves. If there hasn’t yet been any damage to the residents or building (eg. building burns down), the insurance policy will not cover any of the costs. This is clearly a useless and morally dubious policy when it comes to the fire safety of a building like Zenith but, as it stands, it is unlikely that we will benefit from the insurance policy.

What about Notting Hill Genesis?

Notting Hill Genesis have put out generic blanket statements to residents copied and pasted from other buildings with which they are dealing. We were alerted to these re-used statements because NHG left the names of their other developments including ‘Ingot Tower’ and ‘Silverwharf’ on the communications sent out.

For all of the copied and pasted PR quotes from NHG regarding pursuing every other avenue (government funds, insurance, etc.) to reclaim costs, much of this doesn’t apply to Zenith, for the reasons we have set out above. The main realistic avenue to pursue is the developer, Hill Group. If this fails, residents could face financial ruin.

Despite the new fire alarm system (if it is ever installed) being more than adequate to take over the waking watch’s job, NHG intend to continue using the waking watch even once this installation is complete - this is on a building they themselves have publicly commented is “not deemed to be high risk.”

The key thing to remember here, is that NHG are spending residents' money under the service charge, without cost to themselves, in order to alleviate themselves of any potential liability. They are therefore more than happy to continue using a waking watch for the next 4 years as a fail safe, even though once the fire alarm is installed this will clearly no longer be needed and they wouldn’t do this if it were their own money.

So what can we do?

Residents need representation from our own professional experts to fight being passed any costs and to push for a quick resolution. Without this, we are sitting ducks, waiting to be passed the cost and relying on NHG to competently fight hard on our behalf. As we have proven above, this is currently not going well.

To be able to get experts involved and fight our case, we need you to contribute what you can towards the 15 Zenith Fund. We need to raise approximately £20,000 to get a detailed legal opinion on our position and begin action against Hill Group and / or Notting Hill Genesis. If 50 out of the 72 flats donated, this would be £400 per flat. We appreciate this sounds steep, but it will pay off in the long run and is a lot less than the waking watch costs (which are more than this every month) and eventual huge costs of remediating the building. Hill Group is currently doing everything it can to wriggle out of fixing the building under warranty; your donations are a necessary investment to protect our futures.

Please give as generously as you can, we really need most people who can do so to donate as the block cannot represent itself unless a majority of residents are involved.

The Residents Association will fight for you and keep you updated, but we need your help to do so – the link to our GoFundMe is below:

Thank you for your help,