Angry residents forced out of an Oldham town centre apartment block deemed dangerous by the fire service more than two years ago say they have reached ‘the end of their tether’ after paying thousands of pounds in management fees while they have been left effectively homeless. Greater Manchester Fire and Rescue Service (GMFRS) served occupants of the six-storey Victory complex on Union Street with a prohibition notice which meant they left their properties on November 2, 2020.
GMFRS acted following numerous calls to the building caused by a faulty fire alarm system, which caused the residents to stop responding to it. When the Local Democracy Reporting Service visited the property at the time, fire extinguishers were missing from points on landings, smoke alarms appeared to be broken, a skylight roof was gaping open to the elements, pieces of carpet were missing from stairways, and doors which should have been secure protecting utilities were swinging open.
Residents, some of whom were owners of their apartments and others who were tenants of private landlords, were dispersed into emergency council accommodation and others went to stay with family members. Now, two-and-a-half-years on, the issues surrounding the safety of the 31-apartment block still have not been resolved.
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Dissatisfaction over how the then management company were looking after the block prompted the residents to form their own ‘right to manage’ (RTM) organisation. However, the RTM then failed to meet some of the statutory demands of the company and it was dissolved before repairs and alterations to make the block habitable could be completed.
A company called Residential Management Group Ltd, based in Northwich Cheshire, was then asked by the freehold owner of the block to take over its management in November 2021. But still, residents have not been able to return to their homes.
Medical doctor Fozia Malik, 47, paid £60,000 for her flat shortly before GMFRS issued the prohibition order. She said: “I’ve paid thousands of pounds in management fees, like all the other residents, but none of us are living there. It’s crazy.
“We keep being told the work to make the building safe will be completed soon, but we’re never given a date when we can move back in. We have a Whatsapp group for the residents and we are all at the end of our tether.
”This is seriously affecting my mental health.” Another resident is Dr Raja Amjid who said he had paid £9,000 in the last year in management fees.
“It’s extremely frustrating,” he said. “We feel that the work could’ve been done by now. There seems to have been some dragging of feet.”
A spokesperson for RMG told the LDRS that quotes were being obtained for the installation of a new alarm system in the building and it would take probably three months before the building was ready to be reoccupied. They confirmed that apartment owners paying varying levels of management fees even though they were currently resident in the building.
They said: “We totally symphasize with the situation the apartment owners are currently in. We have met with all the owners, explained what work was required to enable the building to be reopened and are currently working through this project.
“Our priority has always been to enable the residents to return to a safe building and following the final element with the installation of an alarm system we hope this will be achieved soon.”