Residents' 'Nightmare' on Enterprise Way Continues

Block's lift repeatedly breaks down stranding tenants

Shamna Finnigan, 48, at 27 Enterprise Way
Shamna Finnigan, 48, at 27 Enterprise Way. Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

March 29, 2024

Residents of a ‘nightmare’ apartment block in Wandsworth say their lives have been ‘ruined’ after years of the lift repeatedly breaking down. Social housing tenants at 27 Enterprise Way, which is off Putney Bridge Road, claim their health has declined, they have been left unable to work or go to hospital appointments and even missed important events like a grandchild’s birth as a result of the issue.

Exhausted residents told the Local Democracy Reporting Service (LDRS) they happily moved into the block managed by Southern Housing, after it was completed in 2015 only for it to turn into a ‘nightmare’. Many of them are trapped indoors when the lift breaks down, which they said can last for days, weeks or even months. The block has a communal garden terrace, but residents said they have not been allowed to access it for an extended period of time which has left them feeling even more trapped.

Some residents have been moved into hotels when the lift has broken down, including when it was mostly out of service from February 17 to March 20. Samira Mohamed, 21, lives with her mother Suad Gaal, 46, who is one of the disabled residents living on the top floor of the eight-storey block. She can’t climb the 16 flights of stairs to their flat when the lift breaks down as she has a spinal disorder and fractured ankle.

Ms Mohamed said issues caused by the lift repeatedly breaking down have ‘ruined’ their lives and they have given up hope the situation will properly improve after repeatedly complaining to Southern Housing. She said the lift can break down less than an hour after being repaired, leaving residents unable to fulfil plans they have made.

The student told the LDRS, “You can’t really change anything in your house. You can’t go to an appointment. You can’t go shopping. Your life is controlled by the lift and one summer when I was carrying the shopping and stuff, anything, up the stairs, I injured my back that time and I had to go to the hospital… up to now I still take pain [medicine] because of that.”

She added, “It feels like we just work for Southern Housing and [you’re] not carrying on with your own life – always chasing up things, always complaining about things.”

Although the family recently joined Wandsworth Council’s housing waiting list, they face waiting years to be offered a new home. They are among many residents who told the LDRS they are desperate to move out of the block.

Hubert Richards, 80, moved into his fifth-floor flat in 2015 after his wife of 50 years died as he could not face living in the home they once shared. He described this as the ‘biggest mistake’ he ever made. He now spends his time going back and forth between his flat and a friend’s in Wimbledon as he ‘can’t handle the stairs’ when the lift breaks down.

Mr Richards has recently been diagnosed with dementia and is desperate to be moved into a more suitable flat where his grandkids can visit him as, he said, he can no longer bring them to the flat due to the issues. He said, “I just can’t handle this anymore and if I could just walk out and get myself another place, I tried… I paid my rent, direct debit, never hold a penny… and I’m stuck here. I can’t come out, all I’m asking for is a first-floor flat. I’ve got all my furniture here, I can’t go sell them or give them away. I spent a lot of money on it and I hate coming here.”

80-year-old Hubert Richards
80-year-old Hubert Richards. Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Southern Housing told the LDRS it plans to replace the lift next year as it is approaching a point where it will need modernising, and that it will continue to repair and maintain the lift until then. The housing association said it has arranged for staff to check on all residents and planned a virtual meeting to fully understand all concerns and tackle any outstanding issues.

Dwayne George, 35, lives on the fifth floor and raised concerns about the impact of the lift breaking down on his mum who visits to look after his 13-year-old daughter. He said, “It’s hard even for my mum to be going up and down the stairs because my mum’s got really bad legs. By the time she goes up one flight of stairs she can’t do no more.”

35-year-old Dwayne George's mother helps him care for his daughter. Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon
35-year-old Dwayne George's mother helps him care for his daughter. Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Elisa Mbuanda, 56, lives on the seventh floor and was moved into a hotel after the lift broke down in February as she can’t use the stairs. She said being forced to move to hotels is disruptive and means she can’t eat the balanced diet she needs as a diabetic as they lack kitchen facilities. She described the long-lasting impact of the issues on her health, including leaving her unable to work for three years.

Ms Mbuanda said: “I was working when I came here… I was well, but after this lift started breaking, now I’ve got knee problems, my back problem and my shoulders problem. I’m not working… sometimes I used to stay two months in the house without going out because of the lift not working. Now I’m on depression tablets, I have depression.”

She added: “I keep telling them to move me… but until now nothing has been done, and I’m still there, not working, nothing. I’m stuck indoors because I’m scared sometimes of going out because you don’t know what is going to happen.”

56-year-old Elisa Mbuanda was forced to move to a hotel from her seventh floor flat56-year-old Elisa Mbuanda was forced to move to a hotel from her seventh floor flat. Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Shamna Finnigan, 48, was also moved into a hotel from her sixth-floor flat in February as she is housebound when the lift breaks down due to health issues. She said: “I appreciate being decanted because at least I’m not housebound, however when you’ve got health issues and mobility issues just even getting the energy to get stuff together to take to the hotel. I work, I still manage to work, thank God, but it’s just a nightmare. It’s just so exhausting and it’s just affecting everything.”

She added: “Sometimes I have to go into the office, the lift’s not working, I can’t do anything. I’ve missed numerous, numerous hospital appointments… because of this and appointments that I’ve been waiting for maybe a year to receive and I missed my daughter’s caesarean. She had a real high-risk pregnancy and she went in as an emergency and I couldn’t even be at the birth of my grandchild because the lift was out.”

Access has been closed off to the block's communal areas. Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

Ms Finnigan claimed Southern Housing agreed to move her to another property last year, but that she has not been given more details. She added she does not believe the company is doing enough to find a long-term solution to fixing the lift and called for it to be replaced.

Natasha Johnson, 43, told the LDRS she had to carry her daughter with sickle cell disease down 14 flights of stairs from their seventh-floor flat when she was having a pain crisis in February due to the lift not working. She said: “She was in agony, she was screaming out for pain.”

Ms Johnson said she worries about her daughter when she has to use the stairs as it can worsen her joint pain. She said: “When I have to go down the stairs with her, walking her down the stairs… even last week she said [her] joints are hurting her, they’re really paining her, and where she’s got to climb up on the seventh floor, I worry just in case she gets another crisis.”

She added: “Sickle cell is a life-or-death situation so if I couldn’t rush her down those stairs or if she got really, really bad in a really, really bad crisis she’d be dead and there’d be nothing I can really do.”

Natasha Johnson, 43, forced to carry her sick daughter down 14 flights of stairs. Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

The mother said the mental health of her other two kids has been affected by the issues, and that having no easy access to outside space leaves her feeling trapped and anxious. “I hate living like this,” she said. “It’s horrible. We shouldn’t have to.”

Samira Mohamed, 21. Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga/MyLondon

A Southern Housing spokesperson said, “We take our residents’ concerns extremely seriously and are working closely with residents at Enterprise Way to address any outstanding issues within their building. The lift at Enterprise Way was repaired on March 20 and remains in full working order. We’re sorry for the impact on residents caused by the repair issues.

“When we investigated the lift breakdown, we discovered extensive damage had been caused by someone placing an item in the communal area on the seventh floor. The lift hit the item when travelling upwards and this took time to repair. While the lift remained out of action, we contacted vulnerable residents to find out whether they’d prefer to move to a temporary home. We also arranged help with carrying shopping or large items up the stairs.”

They added: “We’ve had to close the second-floor garden while we explore how to deal with safety concerns of items being thrown from the roof. We know our residents are keen to access this area and we will reopen when it’s safe to do so.

“We know the importance of strong communication and have shared a dedicated newsletter with residents updating them on issues within the building. We’ve also arranged for our staff to personally check on all residents. We’ve planned a virtual meeting for residents to fully understand all concerns and tackle any outstanding matters. In the meantime, we’d encourage any residents who have any concerns to reach out to our staff who remain on hand to help and support.”

Charlotte Lilywhite - Local Democracy Reporter