Inside neglected Art Deco block where residents face carbon monoxide leaks, mice, cockroaches and lead pipes

Dorchester Court, a chic Art Deco complex of apartments that was targeted at Herne Hill’s young professionals in the Thirties, was a fashionable Art Deco complex. After decades of neglect, the privately-owned estate is now a health risk. There are carbon monoxide gas leaks, dangerous levels lead in the drinking waters, infestations by cockroaches, mice, and a heating and water system that fails for weeks. The Grade II-listed estate, which is listed on Historic England’s Heritage at Risk Register, is in such bad condition that Heinrich Feldman, through his family company Manaquel, owned it until very recently. Although little was known about the reclusive, 86-year old property magnate, who passed away late last month, the family fortune is estimated to be GBP200 million. Dwora, his widow, is now leading the company. Dorchester Court residents consider the building a health hazard. Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd. In the early Nineties, Ben Archard, a 48-year-old electrician, purchased a two bedroom flat at Dorchester Court for GBP230,000. He lives there with his 34-year-old wife Emmanuelle, an online marketer, and their two daughters, Cleo, four, & Lily, two. A young family can find it difficult to live at Dorchester Court. Every winter, the heating and hot-water system has failed since 2019. Archard stated that inefficiency is not the only problem. The estate’s boilers started leaking carbon monoxide in 2020, and the fire brigade was called. Mrs Archard suggested that the girls use bottled water to drink and cook because the pipes in their flat are made of lead. It cost them approximately GBP2,000, but it was a good investment. Ben Archard purchased a flat in the Art Deco block early Nineties / Daniel Hambury/Stella Pictures Ltd. At the beginning of this year, dangerously high levels were discovered in some flats following tests by Lambeth council. Thames Water is currently investigating. Approximately three quarters of Dorchester Court’s 93 flats have been rented. Estella Reed, 43, rented the flats with her two teenage sons. They have been subject to an infestation of pantry moths, followed closely by cockroaches and mice. They have been without hot water and heating for several weeks during the past three winters. Ms Reed stated that she used to swim every day so that she could take a hot shower at the gym and bring my children along, but due to the pandemic, that was impossible. “Last winter, the temperature in my flat was three degrees. “Like many of her neighbors, Ms Reed, who is head of people at a start-up has structural problems in her apartment. The windows are broken and won’t close properly. They are also supported by struts to prevent them from collapsing. Mr Archard explained that no one will grant a mortgage on these flats so the only option is to sell them to the landlord. “In the three years I’ve been here, the percentage of leaseholders has dropped from around 35 percent to 25% because some people have had the need to sell, but they are being offered very, very low prices. “Lambeth council is well aware of the safety issues at Dorchester Court, but has not been able to make any improvements despite negotiations. Manaquel was issued an improvement notice in October 2021 by the council directing it to install double glazing and upgrade the heating system. The firm appealed against the order and no work has been completed. In April last year, a planning application was filed with Lambeth council.READ MORE’Leaseholders shouldn’t pay a penny for rectifying faults not their doing’Cladding crisis – court threat to developers who won’t fund cladding removal Comment: We can’t allow a pathological aversion towards “red tape” that puts more lives at risk. Property Partners’ Dorchester Court manager, Lauren Finlay, stated that the firm appealed against Lambeth’s enforcement notice She claimed that maintenance work was impeded by the estate’s 2004 listing.