For the last 9 years I (Jack – name anonymised) have been working as a key worker in the local community, which includes caring for the needs of vulnerable children. I have two very young children one of which is attending a local school and is doing exceptionally well. My family and I 6 years ago were looking for an affordable property to live in as we found private rent to be too expensive. At this time we were living with my grandmother not ideal however this was the only affordable option at the time.

We found a property at pudding lane and although the property was an odd setup architecturally it would be good for our work circumstances – we both work locally especially as my partner was pregnant. Both my partner and I made sure that my mother whom suffers from ill health moved into a property very close by so that we could care for her needs. This was especially so as my mother almost died on one occasion and so i didn’t want my mother to be too far away.

“…We view ourselves as housing professionals and would be embarrassed to admit this if we didnt look after our customers… You will see a big difference, we’ll look after you”

After moving in, things were ok at first. however after a short while we started to experiences issues relating to security… the communal front entrance didn’t close or lock properly and the lift not working at extended times (such as 4 weeks at a time). I remember one tenant had spina bifida struggling to walk down the fire stairs when the lifts didn’t work.  On one occasion the front door was kicked clean of its hinges. This was only the start of it.

Im not sure where to start really as there have been so many issues. The one that stuck in my mind is when my partner was exiting the lift on the top floor returning home after shopping. My very young child ran out of the lift and headed towards one of the open sash windows in the communal area. The windows cill is around 1ft off the floor. My daughter straddled herself across the cill moments away from falling 3 floors to the main street below. My partner grabbed our daughter just in time as she launched herself to save our child. It took us so much time to get over this, and still have difficulty recalling this incident as it was so traumatic. The sash window had no restriction and could be opened right the way up – not allowable by law.

One occasion returning home from work i could smell cannabis coming from outside our windows. I could hear people outside on the roof area so i went out. I challenged 4 young males one of which  I recognised and he also recognised me. Now that pro-criminal elements knew where I lived,  I demanded to be moved as my family was at risk. Im aware  those who are either on licence or with historical criminal backgrounds continue to be placed at pudding lane  –  Riverside continue to provide accommodation to these individuals even when other tenants have been given no fault eviction notices to vacate – go figure!

riverside_dont_care47Another incident where by I opened my window in the front room to get some fresh air. As i opened the window I heard a “crunch” and in a panic i grabbed the window to close it. The 60 kilo window simply sheered off  falling 3 floors – nearly taking me with it. I screamed at the top of my voice as I saw a man walking towards the falling window. To my relief the man stopped in time and the window narrowly missed him smashing in front of him. A flimsy small cable restricter has been put into place since then in an attempt to stop any more windows from opening/falling – however windows are still being opened and it is recognised by the Landlord Riverside since December 2014, that the windows are dangerous. The restrictors are completely useless  and would not stop a window from falling. I have chosen not to open windows – mainly as I’m too frightened that another window will break off. It took around 6 months before my window was replaced ! I had a wooden board put into situ during this time. Oh yeh, incidentally for the 6 years I have lived at pudding lane not once have the windows ever been cleaned – i was told it was my responsibility to get the windows cleaned – remember I’m 3 floors up!

First window to fall

The latest occasion of a window falling was November 2015 – the windows fell onto a car and narrowly missed a cyclist (televised on ITV and local paper). I have been told another window has fallen before from flat 16 ! Interestingly the window that fell in November 2015 has still not been repaired and a young family with a baby lives there – 6+months later.

 

The floating roofs – mmm well its strange but none of the slabs on the communal path to rooftop apartments have been properly fixed in place – they literally float around! My partner has fallen over and has continued to suffer with pain. Im also aware one other neighbour has broken her ankle and needs ongoing medical treatment.

DAYS and still NO repairs!

We have had a lot of homeless people coming into the building crashing out here from pretty much from the start. They create so many problems as needles and condoms are left lying around for my children to pickup. We often discovered human faeces. Both my neighbours and I patrolled the building regularly to get rid of undesirables who didn’t live there. I remember calling the police on MANY occasions to remove the more violent trespassers… especially as one favourite area people crash out in, was next to my bedroom wall situated in the fire exit corridor. I would hear them shouting and urinating / defecating against the aforementioned wall – which would cause a damp smell in our bedroom.riverside_not_care66

Oh and i remember catching a woman crouching in the lift urinating – do you you know how much self control it took to stop my self from dragging her out? I can tell you it was almost too much. This person had trespassed from outside and wanted to use the lift as a toilet.

There have been many occasions when my wife has been met by persons outside trying to come when leaving the building very early in the morning  – she’s been very very frightening and on one occasion I phoned the police as she was being threatened. I couldn’t leave my home to protect my wife (as i was with my children)- can you imagine how that felt not being able to protect my own family?

For a long time we had problems with water getting in around the windows causing damp walls and eventually the landlord placed spats above the windows outside by hiring a cherry picker. Eventually  they realised the roof was at fault. The roof repairs took place finally, however the builders told me they couldn’t see any wall insulation for my property during the repair work. The windows still have problems with draughts coming through as they haven’t been fitted properly.

Missing lights

I had a mountain bike stolen not long after I purchased the bike. The communal parking area for bikes was situated in the very rear of the building. The same area was shared by the business units for access for their shops etc. The D lock had been cut off using an industrial cutter. There is a new area where bikes can be stored under the fire exit stairs next to the foyer area. The bike parking bars are attached to a plaster board wall – so if you park your bike locked to the bars, the bars can be removed with your bike! Its not even covered by cameras and is one of the areas whereby homeless sleep. Oh incidentally, homeless were lighting fires under the stairs to keep warm and use drugs.

I remember when people were accessing the building (not tenants) setting fire to one of the doors to an apartment. Another occasion, non tenants came into the building and set a bike on fire as well.

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Riverside "customer" Satisfaction

Then there is the electricity – we are supposed to be a very efficient electricity usage. However we don’t use the heating as the cost of running is prohibitively too expensive – we have storage heaters – we only switch one on during the winter months.

We also had the hot water tank changed as the tank was not working properly and began to leak. Many of my neighbours also told me how their hot water tanks weren’t working properly either and waited a long time to have them changed. I remember two of my neighbours tanks catching fire – one of which exploded!

One resident asked me into her home to show me this(see above)! They’ve left now as they couldn’t take any more – but their damaged household items are still there.

I also remember finding burn marks next to fuses to the hot water tank and when i looked i could see foil had been used for fuses .

A peculiar thing is that the bathrooms have no extraction fans – none  of the bathrooms have windows – if i remember correctly this is illegal?

Rubbish left for weeks

We don’t have a rubbish chute so we have to take the rubbish out through the communal areas and the lift, then outside and then back into the communal rubbish area where there isn’t enough bins. Bins are emptied once every two weeks (if you’re lucky) and overflows a lot of the time creating a health hazard.

Homeless in building

There are fire exits that don’t close and lights that hang off or fallen off the ceiling – (due to water ingress). Interesting we do have disabled people living in the building and they have difficulty negotiating the fire exit doors with an electric scooter.

Back in November/December 2014 up until April 2015 I was in contact with Riverside Senior Management helping them to gather information – as they were considering purchasing the block of apartments. I met up with them on a number of occasions and they proudly stated “We view ourselves as housing professionals and would be embarrassed to admit this if we didnt look after our customers” Bev Covington stated this and she also stated that Riverside obtained “a substantial discount” which was assisted by myself and my neighbour once they finally purchased the building. On one occasion I became upset having to recall the incident where by I nearly lost my daughter when she nearly fell 3 floors due to the window being left open too wide in the communal  area. They showed sympathy but now i know this had as much depth as being half eaten by a shark while looking into its eye. I was in contact via email and face to face with Bev CovingtonMark MartinOlajide Akintelure and Ola Lawal (aka knows little does little) during these early days. I absolutely do not trust any of them as I have been lied to on so many occasions – many other tenants are of the same view.

April, May June Passed and nothing happened… I sent reminders via email stating the problems relating to non residents gaining access to the building were not getting any better. Time would go on and I was getting little sleep because of homeless getting into the buliding and waking us up. October arrives and we get a very short notice about a workshop taking place, I couldn’t attend as i was working. The residents who did attend were told that there would be no evictions – Chris Flynn was there (South Divisional Director). NEW main entrance doors were finally installed in January 2016 – nearly a year since Riverside bought the building. Then the Riverside minions ran around the roof area posting eviction notices (Ola Lawal). COMPLETE SHOCK, no warning, nothing. All roof area residents – Can you imagine after 6 years of living here how that felt especially when I had helped Riverside to get a “substantial discount” on the building – such a breach of trust! Thats when another stage of horror started and has continued for 5 months (so far). How do you spell Riverside? L-I-A-R-S.

Pudding Lane, Maidstone