Leaseholder in bitter dispute with management at Sunderland's Echo Building apartment block where prices have plummeted

He is refusing to pay the bills
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Steven Lynn is in dispute with Kingston, who look after the Echo 24 building.Steven Lynn is in dispute with Kingston, who look after the Echo 24 building.
Steven Lynn is in dispute with Kingston, who look after the Echo 24 building.

A leaseholder is in dispute with the company he pays to look after his property, in an apartment building which has tumbled in value.

Steven Lynn says he and a business partner paid £98,000 for an Echo 24 flat in 2019, but would now "be lucky to get £50,000". He is now refusing to pay the charges to Newcastle-based Kingston Property Services

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In January the Echo reported on the concerns of residents who pay Kingston for repairs, maintenance and cleaning. They said the condition of the building was "a disgrace" and formed a group to pressure its management into improvements.

One of the main problems was the ongoing problems with three lifts, which occupants say have not worked properly for years.

Mr Lynn, who runs the Betsy Jenny Wellbeing Cafe on nearby Bridge Street, said matters are not improving and provided the Echo with figures.

He said: "In those five years one lift has worked. Two have never worked. But they've charged the leaseholders over £400,000 to get the lifts fixed. They're still not fixed and they've taken this money from us over a year ago.

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"They charge us £570 per flat annually to clean the windows, but they haven't been cleaned in 15 years. Cleaning (generally) is £5,174, repairs £3,700, lift service contract £1,588, lift repairs £3,570, lift insurance £420, lift call system £240 - they never work and we're still being charged.

"Carpets need cleaning. They're also peeling back and making a tripping hazard.

"Our flat was originally bought for £275,000 in 2007. Whoever owned it then must have given it back to the bank and me and my business partner paid £98,000 in 2019. Now we'd be lucky to get £50,000.

"Kingston won't respond to my emails. I've received a letter from their solicitors, because I've refused to pay service charges until I know exactly what we're paying for.

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"One lift has been repaired. They said it had been renewed. They're doing the middle one, which they said would be repaired last year.

"I want rid of them (Kingston). I want a competent company who will do what they say and what they charge for.

"Our apartment is lovely. But the corridors and the communal areas are shocking.

"Adriatic (the building's owners) are to blame too, because they employed Kingston."

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A Kingston spokesperson told the Echo: “Each leaseholder is issued with fully itemised annual charges and accounts, which clearly show all costs included within the service charge. We are always happy to clarify any confusion with service charges on request.

"Although we are unable to disclose the amounts for Echo Building and confidential financial information, the costs stated by Mr Lynn are not accurate.

“We have communicated with Mr Lynn regarding his service charge on several occasions over email in February, July and November 2023. However, communication is currently restricted to solicitors while his account is in dispute in line with Mr Lynn’s comments.

“Window cleaning requires specialist equipment due to external access constraints, along with road closures and traffic management, which all adds to the costs for leaseholders.

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"The communal windows are now cleaned annually to keep costs within budget and this was last carried out in April 2023.

"A tender process is underway for the internal and external cleaning of communal windows in 2024. Leaseholders and residents will be provided with timeframes once the communal window cleaning is confirmed.

“In line with legislation, a consultation process commenced in December 2022 for the modernisation and replacement of the lifts at Echo Building. Residents were updated at each stage of the consultation and the lift works are currently underway.

“Modernisation of the East lift is complete, replacement of the Central lift will be completed imminently and the West lift is due to be replaced by June 2024. Residents and leaseholders have received regular updates on progress and timeframes throughout the process.

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"Additionally, Kingston have increased their communication efforts by introducing a bespoke Echo Building newsletter, which has been issued to all residents and will be circulated periodically.

“We are unable to comment on the value of properties, as this is obviously outside of our remit and driven by market conditions.”

The website of online estate agents Rightmove says: "Properties in SR1 1XD (the building's postcode) had an overall average price of £35,000 over the last year.

"Overall, sold prices in SR1 1XD over the last year were 36% down on the previous year and 86% down on the 2008 peak of £242,375."

Echo 24 has around 180 flats, equating to an overall drop in value of approximately £6million since 2008.

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