'Awful': Council flat tenant endures 7 years of heating issues

Tudor victorian houses on sunny winter day

Oakeshott Avenue in Highgate, the road that Zoe lives on. - Credit: Frankie Lister-Fell

When Camden resident Zoe Coleman moved into council-owned Holly Lodge in 2015, she was chuffed with her “lovely” new flat. 

But since then the 51-year-old has wrestled with persistent heating and water pressure problems that began almost as soon as she moved into the Highgate property on Oakeshott Avenue. 

She says that, unlike the other flats in her block, she never had the right pump fitted, resulting in extended periods where she would have either no heating or be unable to turn it off. 

Zoe filed two complaints with the council, and temporary fixes have followed.

Last winter, Zoe spent £350 on plug-in heaters to warm her flat, which she shares with her son, who has been ill for the past three years.

Three months ago, Gem Estate Management Limited (GEM), the maintenance company contracted by Camden Council, told her it would order a pump and other parts. 

But, other than an immersion boiler, the parts have not arrived. According to Zoe, the pump was only ordered two weeks ago. She has not been given a date for when the other parts will arrive. 

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She said that GEM is unreliable: “Sometimes they’d send someone at ten o’clock at night who didn’t know what they were doing." 

Zoe is a HR teaching assistant at a Camden school, and if she stays a home to let GEM workers inside, she “doesn’t get paid”. 

“I get paid by Camden and I pay my rent to Camden. If Camden can’t fix my heating, and I’ve got to take time off work, I don’t get paid by Camden for Camden to mess up again,” she said.

A Camden Council spokesperson said: “We would like to apologise to the resident for the ongoing issues they have been experiencing with their heating and the length of time it has taken to rectify this.

“After identifying the cause of the issues, a permanent solution has now been identified, and work will begin shortly to fix the heating."

They said a Saturday repair service is available for council residents. 

“We will continue to work with the resident to regularly monitor the heating to ensure that it is working properly as well as covering any extra expenses caused by using alternative methods of heating and hot water during this time,” they said.

GEM was contacted for comment, but it said it was unable to provide any further information.