Principle’s determined approach to replace broken lift in small apartment block

When Principle Estate Management began looking after a small apartment block in London two years ago, it was presented with the surprise problem of a broken lift.


This was no simple issue as the lift at Hamond Square, on Hamond Street in Hoxton, was a basic design that had been installed when the development was built around 20 years ago.


This meant it was beyond economic repair, but the prospect of installing a new lift presented its own challenges as the costs might be too high to split between the leaseholders of what was just 12 apartments.


But none of this put Principle off, and the company carefully launched a focused project to manage the issue to an outcome that ended up pleasing all its customers.


What was initially planned as a 12-month project met extra hurdles with the COVID-19 lockdown, but a new lift, funded by an affordable budget, has now been fitted.


Melanie Hunt, a property manager at Principle, personally took the challenge on and led the successful delivery of the project.


Ms Hunt said: “What started as managing a small apartment block suddenly became a major job because we’d not been made aware that the lift was broken well before we took over.


“But rather than trying to dodge the issue or exit the contract, we launched a project to get to grips with the job and see it through to completion, while maintaining good customer service.”


Ms Hunt explained how soon after Principle’s management of Hamond Square began, a resident asked when the lift was going to be repaired – which was the first the company knew of the issue.


Principle immediately asked the previous management agents for information and this was when they discovered the lift had been out of order for 12 months.


The previous agents had commissioned a report which gave a provisional price for the works and a budget to collect the funds needed from leaseholders.


Ms Hunt said: “This was obviously a large and unexpected item of expenditure, and with only 12 apartments this was going to be a challenge to fund.


“However, at the same time, it was very inconvenient to those living on the upper floors, and this was becoming quite an emotional matter for some leaseholders.


“After reviewing the report, we therefore decided to appoint ILECS, an independent specialist lift consultancy, to provide impartial professional specialist advice.”


ILECS told Principle that they were dealing with a dated, budget-level lift with faults beyond repair and that their advice was to replace the entire lift.


Ms Hunt advised the building’s freeholder of the problem and best course of action, and commenced the formal section 20 consultation process that would be needed to fund the works.


She also advised leaseholders of the landlord’s intention to replace the lift and invited them to make observations and to nominate contractors, with all communications accompanied by an explanatory letter and copies of the ILECS report.


ILECS were instructed to prepare a formal specification for the works and to put the contract out to tender, and leaseholders were then advised of cost estimates from various contractors.


Ms Hunt recalled: “Faced with these costs, leaseholders were concerned that it might be possible to repair the lift instead and we were asked to review the proposal.


“We approached the French company that originally installed the lift and another lift consultant as requested by some leaseholders, and this proved that ILECS’ suggested replacement was appropriate.


“Leaseholders accepted this but appreciated that we had taken these further steps to reassure them, and the funds needed were then collected to enable the new lift works to proceed.”


ILECS placed the order with D & C Lifts for £88,445 plus VAT in January 2020, with delivery of all parts expected to take 13 weeks.


This meant replacement works that were planned to start on 5 May were then hit by the pandemic lockdown, which meant delays until June.


Principle made sure leaseholders and residents were fully aware of progress and changing dates at all stages, and the new British-made Reco lift was fully fitted and operational by 24 September.


Ms Hunt added: “It was a major project at a small development, but I’m thrilled at the outcome as it’s made such a huge difference to everyone involved.”


Brett Williams, managing director of Principle, said: “This lift project has shown our ability to pick up a major job on a small site with little warning or background information, and to make sure that nothing gets in our way of successfully completing it.


“I’m proud at the focus and efforts that our property manager Melanie poured into this, and at how skilfully she maintained our good relationship with the landlord, leaseholders, residents and contractors.


“I’d also like to commend ILECS for their excellent support on this job and the contractor D&C Lifts for the quality of the equipment and works on site.”


Principle is the UK’s fastest growing estate management company which has tripled in size in the last 12 months. It has recently expanded into new offices at Newhall Street in the Jewellery Quarter of Birmingham, from where it offers a national property management service.