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Families at Orchard Village, Rainham, start legal battle against Clarion Housing Group

PUBLISHED: 11:39 09 December 2016 | UPDATED: 12:15 09 December 2016

Orchard Village, Rainham

Orchard Village, Rainham

Archant

Exasperated residents have launched a legal challenge against a housing association, which they claim has repeatedly failed to provide effective repairs on their estate for more than a year.

Clarion Housing Group’s response

Vicky Bonner, Director of Housing at Clarion Housing Group commented: “The new group is taking urgent action to provide residents of Orchard Village the quality homes they were promised.

“We have set up a new project team which is focused on solving these issues permanently, as quickly as possible. “We are keeping residents updated on the full inspections which are currently being undertaken and will update further as soon as we have these results.

“We know that this has been a difficult time, but want to reassure residents they remain an absolute priority for us and we will do everything possible to keep disruption to a minimum while we carry out these remedial works.”

Leaseholders and freeholders living at Orchard Village, in Rainham, say they can no longer take the host of problems on the three-year-old “nightmare” estate.

A group of 13 families have decided to lodge a case against Circle Housing – now known as the Clarion Housing Group – which runs the site of 387 homes.

Last week, Circle Housing merged with Affinity Sutton to become one of the biggest housing-providers in the UK.

Leading the case, associate solicitor at Muldoon Britton Kalvin Chapman told the Recorder: “I have been doing litigation cases for 12 years and this is one of the most shocking litigation claims that I have ever come across.

Orchard Village resident Colin Nickless is angered by the fact his energy bill are three times higher than what he was expecting to payOrchard Village resident Colin Nickless is angered by the fact his energy bill are three times higher than what he was expecting to pay

“There might as well not be any windows or doors because heat is pouring out of the house,” he said.

He added he was “astonished” scores of problems on a social housing estate were allowed to go on for so long.

The Recorder has reported on the residents’ efforts to put pressure on the housing association to complete the long-awaited repairs, but the scale and sheer numbers of complaints continue to rise.

In the last fortnight, an 81-year-old man saw sewage coming into his kitchen and the staircase of a family with young children gave way.

A spokeswoman from Clarion said repairs were carried out and further work is scheduled to take place.

The legal proceedings are a last resort for residents, who put up with hosts of problems including leaky and damp homes caused by the lack of insulation, vermin infestation and claims of “extortionate” energy bills.

Colin Nickless, 40, of Broadis Way, has seen the health of his daughter Eleanor, five, who has autism and cystic fibrosis deteriorate while living in a damp and cold home.

She has been hospitalised several times since the family moved to Orchard Village in September last year, he said.

Mr Chapman described the residents’ claim as “a strong case” and he believes the legal threat should be enough to get all parties “around the table” to find a solution.

The legal challenge only represents 13 families but Mr Chapman hopes a settlement will include an agreement from Clarion over the whole estate – otherwise a case could go ahead in the High Court.

Residents taking part in the legal challenge all had thermal inspection carried out in their homes.

In the report of Mr Nickless’ home, the inspectors made 43 recommendation for further inspections and identified “a fire hazard, no sound proofing and very little thermal protection”, said Mr Chapman.

Elsewhere on the estate, 24 households in Greengage Court launched a mediation case at the Leaseholders Advisory Services tribunal after paying £140 of service charges a month compared with £20 in other blocks.

This comes as the Homes and Communities Agency – the social housing regulator – accepted to pursue the second stage of their investigation into Orchard Village after residents appealed the decision to close the enquiry.

Meanwhile, South Hornchurch councillors, backed by residents, are pleading with the council to step in and exercise its power under the Building Act 1984 and rectify the building work where appropriate.

At the last council meeting, the council agreed a motion stating it would “consider” stepping in where legally possible.

Cllr Graham Williamson said: “We need the council to take more of an interest in this. Orchard Village residents are Havering residents and the council has a duty of care towards them.”

Answering a formal complaint about the estate, Havering Council’s interim director of housing Neil Stubbings wrote: “It is very clear that there have been failings in relation to the new properties that have been built. These have not been denied by Clarion.”

He confirmed the council was seeking legal advice regarding a possible breach of building regulations and of the construction contract.

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