Like the biblical prophet some think he resembles, Michael Stainer has frequently prophesised the imminent collapse of part of the southern elevation of the Grand. As recently as July 1st, he warned of the danger to fabric of the Palm Court and pointed the finger of blame at successive Tribunal-appointed managers.
The self-proclaimed saviour of the Grand has never produced any evidence however, and failed to respond to requests to hand over any reports or documents that might have existed, despite his legal obligations. Therefore, residents, Tribunal Judges and managers were lulled into a sense of false security, “…just a load of typical hot air…..”.
Clearly, any evidence of genuine structural issues should be made available as both lives and property were at risk. Obviously, anyone with a shred of decency would make available all the information at his disposal.
But not Mr Stainer: debt-denier, defier of court-orders, arguer with judges, ex-bankrupt and maybe about to be disqualified as a director — our man doesn’t do decency.
We can now say without hesitation, having seen the evidence, that he has deliberately sat on an engineer’s report, issued on July 17th 2013, that makes it clear in the starkest terms what the dangers are.
Mr Hore’s investigations focused on two Stainer-owned flats, the fifth floor Froxfield and the fourth floor Edinburgh, which is about to auctioned by the mortgage lender.
In the former, “an inspection hole was made behind a skirting board to expose the top flange and part of the web of a pair of steel beams. The corroded steelwork had expanded and large sections of flaking rust could be removed by hand. As consequence, the beams are severely weakened.”
He goes on, and the date he mentions is significant, as we shall see: “. we inspected these beams from the underside during a previous visit in November 2000. The suspended ceiling in Edinburgh had locally fallen down due to water penetration and the underside of these beams was noted at that time as suffering from severe corrosion.”
In the Edinburgh, Mr Hore’s detailed investigations revealed “a severely corroded steel I-beam”. As a result, “the outer part of the external wall for is moving outwards in the area around the head of the windows.” This outward movement “is thought to be caused by corrosion and expansion of the steel beams supporting the inset wall above the fifth floor level and also the beam (or beams) forming the lintel over the Edinburgh Suite.”
It goes on: “The strength of the beams has been considerably reduced due to corrosion……… if corrosion continues (which is likely unless effective repairs are carried out) then the weakening of the beams due to corrosion is likely to become a more serious problem”.
The other repeated message in the report is the problem of water penetration. The Grand sits proudly confronting the elements throughout the year. But like any man-of-war of the Edwardian era, such as those steel-clad Dreadnoughts who confronted the Kaiser’s battle fleet, it requires constant loving attention, and has had none.
The report contains numerous recommendations which the self-proclaimed saviour of the Grand did nothing about. We can offer no explanation for this behaviour. Nor can we explain his withholding of this report, even after this non-compliance with a legal obligation was reported to the Property Tribunal.
But what about Stainer’s obligations as a director of Hallam Estates, the Grand’s freeholder? The freeholder in any property transaction in which a lease is transferred on sale, has an obligation to hand over any relevant reports to the buyer’s solicitor. Were Furley Page, as Hallam Estates solicitors handing lease assignments, aware of this report?
Three residents we have spoken to, who have bought flats at the Grand since 2015, all say that had they been aware of this report, and the implications for their already punitive service charge bill, they would have walked away. They quite possibly have grounds for legal action against Hallam Estates.
We have noted Mr Hore’s comments from his 2000 visit. We have also seen correspondence that makes it clear that the problems of the south elevation were not new. On February 6th 2002, Fell Reynolds, the then property managers, warned lessees that the southern elevation was at real risk of structural failure if essential work was not tackled. On June 19th, 2002, they advised leaseholders that the landlord was unlikely to finance his share of the costs for the essential work to the Southern elevation.
On July 25th 2002, in a letter to two leaseholders, Fell Reynolds, describe in some details Stainer’s struggles to raise finance in relation to the Southern elevation issues. He concludes with the phrase “if by some miracle funding was received during the course of the summer”, work might commence.
What do we make of all this? We are often accused of persecuting Michael Stainer, but he has never challenged a single word we have published. He in turn blames the entire world for his problems — HMRC, residents, insolvency practitioners, Judges. In court submission after submission, he twists the facts, puts words into the mouths of Judges, claims forgery, fraud and falsification of documents, alleges conspiracies between public bodies and private individuals.
What happens next? Leaseholders now await a new engineer’s report. There are other cracks in various flats that suggest further problems with the structure of the building. The massive unpaid debts of the Stainer’s and Hallam Estates are moving towards an end-game in which there are no winners. But there is one villain, and we know who he is……..
The Shepway Vox Team
Journalism for the People NOT the Powerful