Fury over state of Bristol luxury flats
A development of luxury flats in Bristol city centre has come under fire from residents who say a developer has left it half-finished and riddled with faults.
People living at 10 Unity Street, a conversion of the former Merchant Venturers' College off Park Street, say they face paying thousands of pounds to fix 'defects' themselves.
They say they asked developer Carrot Limited to carry out repairs to problems they discovered when they moved in but, after waiting up to three years in one case, they are still not happy with their homes.
One couple, who paid £455,000 for a three-bedroom duplex apartment in the historic landmark building, shelled out for corrective work themselves and say they've taken Carrot to court to force the firm to pay the £5,000 bill.
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They are worried they won't be able to sell their property because communal areas, gardens and neighbouring flats in the development have been left tatty and unfinished.
Another resident said he was considering doing thousands of pounds of work himself after claiming Carrot failed to respond to his complaints.
Carrot began transforming the semi-derelict Victorian-Gothic building, constructed in 1865, into 49 apartments, duplexes, triplexes and penthouses in 2005.
Heralded as 'the ultimate living experience', it won the Best Luxury Development category at the Premier Guarantee Excellence Awards 2007 but many of the properties remain unfinished and unoccupied.
Carrot says building work stopped last year when its source of funding, an Icelandic bank called Kaupthing, collapsed.
Retired Anthony and Pauline Carline, 70 and 68, say they feel ignored by Carrot since complaining about problems they discovered in their duplex flat after moving from Clevedon in December 2007.
They say interior doors were hung 1in off the floor and the French doors were warped and needed to be replaced.
Mrs Carline said: "In April, my husband had half a lung removed and after suffering stress had a seizure in September we feel we have been hitting our heads against a brick wall.
"If we wanted to sell the place, how could we bring people though the building when downstairs is looking like a doss house? We could lose all our money if we wanted to sell up.
"They haven't told us when the development will be finished. There are still wires hanging down from the ceiling in some communal areas. We also haven't been able to use the garden."
The couple put together a 'a snagging list', a list of problems usually rectified by the developer, but say they feel ignored despite meeting the company's owner Tim Carr last year.
In October, they decided to hire workmen to carry out the repairs and took Carrot to the small claims court to force them to pay the bill - but they say they are still waiting for their money.
Stephan Briggs, 35, who runs a web consultancy, moved into a £220,000 two-bedroom duplex apartment in March last year.
He says his snagging list ran into seven pages, after he found drafty windows, mice in the building, a faulty kitchen hob, faulty washing machine, tiles not fitted properly, an extractor fan in the wrong place and a boiler problem.
Mr Briggs now plans to spend £1,000 draft proofing his windows, and more money to replace the bathroom ceiling, move the bathroom extractor fan, buy a new carpet and soundproof a waste pipe.
He said: "The developers said it would be the best quality development outside of London. I've paid my money and I feel completely let down."
Company director Matthew Wofinden, 23, bought two flats in the development in 2006, paying £375,000 for a duplex flat and £275,000 for a triplex apartment.
He says there are still problems with his properties - almost three years after moving in.
Mr Wofinden even set up a website to warn people about buying property at the development.
He said: "It's been the biggest hell of my life.
"We are living in a substandard property and we're about to spend £5,000 for insulation.
"We bought the flats because we wanted somewhere unique in Bristol. But we realised when we moved in that there were problems with both properties.
"We had problems with the toilet, we couldn't open windows and there were gaps between floorboards. None of these problems were getting fixed. But we got to the point where we couldn't fight people anymore.
"One of the residents with a property here got so fed up with the problems, he ended up renting it out and moving to France."
Mr Carr said: "If residents have faults, they have every right to have them rectified. I don't remember saying to residents that I wouldn't rectify faults and that position remains unchanged.
"Regardless of what we do, work needs to be signed off by building control and they are careful about making sure everything is right.
"We have agreed to reimburse Mr and Mrs Carline and we were not aware the case had gone to court.
"The development has not been finished but work to complete the apartments is minor."
Developer, Mr Tim Carr said the Icelandic bank collapse on the day it had agreed to fund the final stage of the Unity Street development.
He said: "We weren't able to get the money we signed up for. It's taken some time but we've now managed to resource the funding ourselves through another method and people are back on site and the development will be finished in a few weeks.
"If residents weren't aware of this, there must have been a communications problem on our part."
He added: "We take a lot of pride in what we do and most professionals in the property industry in Bristol say Unity Street is the best scheme they've seen in the city.
"We are not ignoring purchasers' anxieties. We are a small company and do not have a big back-of-house set up."
The problems at 10 Unity Street have emerged a week after the Post revealed that residents at another luxury flat development in Bristol, The Point on Wapping Wharf, had launched a £1.5-million legal action after they were forced to prop up their collapsing balconies.
According to court papers they are taking developer Crosby Homes to court next month after two balcony ceilings at the award-winning £14m development suffered problems.