Buyers claim luxury flats are 'nightmare' construction site
- Credit: Left: www.godfreylondon.co.uk. Right: Archant.
The company behind a £32m development, intended to help regenerate Kilburn High Street, has gone into administration after years of delays.
It has left buyers, who put hefty deposits into apartments, in limbo after their move-in dates were repeatedly delayed.
Others, who have moved in, say they have spent months living on “a construction site”.
The Park Place project – a ten-minute walk from West Hampstead train station – was meant to house 60 luxury apartments from developer Godfrey London.
But the limited partnership set up to deliver the scheme has now been declared insolvent. Godfrey London and its associated companies are still trading.
The developer has apologised, claiming the project suffered “unprecedented” setbacks caused by Brexit and Covid-19.
One first-time buyer put down his life savings – more than £25,000 – on an apartment in 2018.
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His move-in date was spring 2019 but Godfrey London sent emails throughout 2019 and 2020, repeatedly delaying it. He has still not moved in.
“I’m furious,” he said. “I had worked hard to get a deposit together. It’s had a massive impact on my life. I imagined I would be moving in with my partner.
“A number of people have now had to spend years living with their parents, sleeping on people’s sofas or paying for extortionate short-term rental.
"I’ve been keeping all my furniture in my parents’ shed, but other people have had to pay for storage. It’s having a huge impact on people’s mental health.”
Another first-time buyer, IT worker Melvin, 34, put down a £70,000 deposit with his wife in spring 2019, having been told they could move in by the autumn.
Each time completion was delayed, they had to extend the lease on their rented home.
In summer 2020, they asked for a refund. By the time they got it, they had been paying rent for a whole year that they should have been in their new home. It had cost them more than £20,000.
"I ended up losing even more money because I had to pay the lawyer,” said Melvin. “That cost me about £3,000.”
What Godfrey says
Godfrey London has worked on several developments around Hampstead. One – Netherhall Gardens – won an Evening Standard New Homes Award in 2018.
In March 2017, OakNorth Bank lent director Paul Godfrey £19m for the Park Place project. Another £7m came from a company called Cogress, and £6m from RS Property Finance.
This cash was to enable Mr Godfrey to purchase a plot on Kilburn High Road, overlooking Kilburn Grange Park, and erect a six-storey apartment block.
A press release said the “landmark” development would “help spearhead the ongoing regeneration of this important high street.”
But the company set up to complete the development was placed into administration in December.
“We are incredibly upset for the buyers,” Mr Godfrey said. “I am very sorry... It’s all been out of my hands.”
He blamed Brexit for the initial delays, saying: “We had massive issues with getting raw materials."
By early 2020, he said, around 70 per cent of the units were sold and the building was almost complete. But Camden Council’s planning permission said that before the sales could be completed and the tenants moved in, he had to secure a housing association to manage the “affordable” units.
A housing association had agreed to buy the units but pulled out amid the Covid-19 pandemic.
In summer, Camden Council agreed to let 30 per cent of the buyers move in early. But in December, with further completions still blocked by the continued lack of a housing association deal, the bank put the company into administration.
“It wasn’t our decision,” said Mr Godfrey. “I don’t agree with the decision. I don’t understand what the point of doing it is.”
Mr Godfrey said the sole blockage had been the affordable housing issue, adding: “The building itself was finished in May or June... The scheme itself, and the product, I don’t think anybody would complain about.”
But buyers who were allowed to move in last summer have complained.
“It’s been an absolute nightmare,” said one. “If I had known then what I know now, about what I’m living with, I wouldn’t have bought into this.
“When I moved in, maybe half of the apartments were finished. The others had wires sticking out, kitchens weren’t properly installed. There was still construction going on.
“There are still construction crew on-site now, constantly in and out. We have been living in what I feel is a construction site.”
One resident took photographs in the week beginning January 18, 2021, showing unfinished works.
“The lifts weren’t operational until November,” they said. “Things are not as they said in the marketing brochure. There were so many specifications that we just don’t have.”
Residents have made a list of problems, including faulty underfloor heating and missing features, like kitchen splashguards, bathroom shelves and integrated wardrobe lighting.
“The gym that they promised us – we have no idea now if there’s going to be a gym,” a buyer said. “It’s in the administrators’ hands. But if there isn’t, that seriously devalues our homes. That was part of what we bought into.”
Residents also claimed the door to the building, in its current state, could be a fire hazard.
“At the moment, the main door is our only entrance and exit, and it breaks down all the time,” said one. “It’s one of those magnetic, automatic doors, so when it breaks we are literally stuck inside. It has no inside handle. That’s not good if there’s a fire emergency.”
Mr Godfrey said photographs of ongoing works showed unsold units, explaining: “We prioritised those which were sold/reserved”.
Of missing fixtures and fittings, he said the project was “beset with a number of supply chain issues as a result of Covid-19/Brexit”, adding: “We have done our best to mitigate these throughout the process without compromising on quality and have kept purchasers informed.”
He said a “commercial decision” was taken to delay the gym, as government guidance had suggested they should not be used amid the pandemic, but “the intention is still for the gym to be provided.”
He added that he had asked the administrators, Moorfields, to investigate problems with the door.
Mr Godfrey pointed to a “schedule of condition and compliance check” report, authored in December 2020.
It found most aspects of the building were “generally in good condition”, but noted “excessive gaps” in some fire doors and said some plug sockets had been installed too close to hobs and sinks.
We asked Moorfields a series of questions about the issues raised by buyers and about when it believed all buyers would be able to move in. It did not respond.
Quadrant Building Control, approved inspector for the site, said the entrance/exit accorded with fire safety regulations, but it had asked the building management company to investigate continuing complaints.