Ross House: A Tissue of Lies

Pursuant to section 1 of the Defective Premises Act 1972 and the Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, Ross House was not fire compliant when Folkestone & Hythe District Council purchased it on Friday 13th April 2018 and continues to be unfit for human habitation.

Case law on s.1 DPA, including Rendlesham Estates, and Bole & Anor v Huntsbuild Ltd (2009) EWCA Civ 1146, seem to provide reasonable precedents to support the fact that Ross House is unfit for human habitation. Throw in the  Homes (Fitness for Human Habitation) Act 2018, which means the fitness obligation for the Council is a continuing duty to keep Ross House fit for habitation, means they remain non compliant with regards to fire risk.

At 17:12 on the cold afternoon of November 19th, 2019, Folkestone & Hythe District Council quietly slipped information about Ross House, Ross Way, Folkestone onto their website. It states:

  • A fire risk assessment was also completed by an independent assessor on the property prior to acquisition. These assessments did not highlight any problems with works completed.

It is now known the first Fire Risk Assessment undertaken on the 30th April 2018 (FRA) was done on Ross House, seventeen days after the Council purchased it. The first FRA reported that the risk then was substantial, meaning urgent action should be taken if the building is occupied.

Screenshot from 2019-11-29 22-47-11

This FRA states

  • There is a loft hatch access off of the communal hall, which is access to a large open roof void with no compartmentation between flats.

  • There are large roof voids above each block where a fire could start and spread unseen and undetected. The roof covering is laid on top of close boarded timber slats the full length of the roof void.

  • Residents observed during site survey were all young families.

The building was occupied and no urgent action was taken, none, even though the building was occupied by “young families“.

The Council purchased Ross House on Friday 13th April 2018, according to the land registry title deed. So how could the Council or East Kent Housing (EKH) have undertaken an FRA prior to purchase, when the evidence says they undertook their first FRA some seventeen days after they purchased Ross House? It would appear the Council have spun a tissue of lies around Ross House.

Screenshot from 2019-11-30 01-03-42

It is clear the next review of the FRA was NEVER undertaken prior to the 30/04/2019. The second FRA was allegedly undertaken … on the November 1st, 2019. However, evidence exists one been done the day before on the 30/10/2019.

The second Fire Risk Assessment  report carried out on the 1st Nov 2019 said the risk was intolerable.

Screenshot from 2019-12-01 13-29-02

The Council’s website states:

  • An updated fire risk assessment of the property is ongoing and as part of this East Kent Housing has raised some concerns regarding fire safety.

The second fire risk assessment was done prior to their public announcement, eighteen days before. So why the necessity to use “euphemisms” such as “ongoing“, or “raised some concerns” when in fact no one should be in the building?

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The second FRA states:

  • There is a loft hatch access off of the communal hall, which is access to a large open roof void with no compartmentation between flats.

  • Due to compartmentation issues and current lack of fire precautions this building is advised to adopt a full evacuation policy for the foreseable future.

  • The doors leading into the flats did not appear to be FD30S compliant. These doors open out onto communal spaces/area’s and would offer no passive fire resistance to fire and smoke.

  • All problems identified now resolved : No

It is clear from the second FRA tenants should NOT  be in the building. As of today, 2nd Dec 2019 tenants are still occupying Ross House. It’s clear no work to rectify all the defects have been undertaken as identified in the first FRA.

We know that there is also a programme in place which has been issued to all 4 Councils last week whereby the intolerable or substantial issues are expected to be remedied by May or early June 2020.  So Ross House was not, is not and will not be compliant with Building Regs Approved Document B Volume 1 or Volume 2,  a full 25/26 months after the Council purchased Ross House. As such it was not fit for habitation prior to purchase, nor on the 30th April, or on the 1st Nov 2019 nor up to June 2020.

All Cllrs have received an email stating Ross House is not as bad as it appears. No it is worse, far worse. The Council and EKH are downplaying tenant’s safety. Tenants have a right and a legitimate expectation to live in a property that is fire compliant and does NOT place them at intolerable risk and in breach of the Council’s legal obligations to its tenants.

We know the Council were in negotiations in April 2017 to acquire Ross House on completion. Oliver Davis company, Mulberry Tree Holdings Ltd, purchased Ross House on the 04.09.2017  for £680,000. We know Daniel Knight’s company, Crusade Building Services Ltd with an outstanding CCJ, refurbed it in part.

Screenshot from 2019-11-30 01-52-54

The Council went onto purchase Ross House on Friday 13th April 2018 for £1.8 million. Surely the Council must have known it was buying a defective property, as its own alleged building control inspectors visited the property on several occasions and signed off defective work. They would have done a final inspection before the Completion certificate was issued. This they did, but missed all the fire related issues.

The Council and EKH have had more than reasonable time to put the defective issues right. However, the health and safety of the tenants  has been and continues to be ignored, as Ross House was NOT, and is still not fire compliant. The legal precedents set out at the beginning of the post clearly demonstrate any other conclusion would be a tissue of lies.

The Shepwayvox Team

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2 Comments on Ross House: A Tissue of Lies

  1. A Ross House Tenant // December 2, 2019 at 10:19 // Reply

    Para 74 of the Rendlesham judgement lets Oliver Davis of the legal hook:

    If, in spite of the existence of a defect of design or workmanship, the cause of any risk to the health or safety of the occupants is a failure to carry out maintenance or refurbishment work which would rectify that defect – being work of a type that the owner/occupier ought reasonably to foresee to be necessary in the ordinary course of events – the builder is not liable.

    The Council have had eighteen months to fix the issues. Ollie therefore cannot now be held liable. The defective issues should have been raised when the building control inspectors inspected. How many other buildings may well be defective because the Council’s building control inspectors did not inspect thoroughly. This is a major cause for concern and the Council ought to do something about immediately. They can use urgency powers to buy land from a criminal, a castle, Connect 38, but not use them to keep their tenants safe.

    Thanks to the Shepwayvox Team, Cllr Prater and Cllr Fuller for all they have done for us. Keep going.

  2. doggerbank56 // December 2, 2019 at 16:08 // Reply

    Please see below links to a commentary on the Rendlesham Estates case by Keating Chambers and secondly a link to the judgement. In paragraph 82, Mr Justice Edwards- Stuart having reviewed Section 1 of the Defective Premises Act 1972 sets out various criteria
    which in his opinion would render a building as being unfit for human habitation. Sub-paragraph viii (below) clearly states that this would include breaches of the Building Regulations with particular reference to fire safety.

    viii) If, at the time of completion, the state of an apartment is such that a local authority with knowledge of its condition would not approve it as fit for occupation under the Building Regulations (for example, for lack of suitable means of escape in the case of fire), it is probably unfit for habitation.

    For this reason, I believe that Oliver Davis decided (no doubt based on legal advice) that it would be in his interests to offer to help remedy the multiple defects present in Ross House. After all, Ross House in its current state is not a good advertisement for him personally or for the companies he is a director of.

    What is amazing is the gross culpability of Folkestone & Hythe District Council and East Kent Housing for allowing this situation to happen in the first place and then doing little or nothing to rectify the problems that have put the lives of tenants at such serious risk.

    Councillors Prater and Fuller and Shepway Vox need to continue to apply pressure to get this situation rectified but, deserve congratulation from all local residents for bringing this shambolic state of affairs to public attention.

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