Cars written off in underground garage one month after flooding

Cars written off in underground garage one month after flooding
A Tonbridge resident is taking legal action after cars in an underground garage were damaged by flooding

One tenant of Riverbank House in Angel Lane is threatening to take Pembroke Property Management to the industry’s ombudsman for failing to remove the water, which has been there since December 20.

Pippa Garrott is one of four tenants whose cars have been ruined under four feet of standing water, and has instructed her solicitors.

Ms Garrott, who says the lack of action spoilt her Christmas, said: “The water is still there and it doesn’t look like being pumped any time soon.

“They say they won’t pump now because it’s still raining. Essentially it’s like they’re waiting for the summer.”

Ms Garrott, 37, has lived in the building since the top two floors were converted from offices to 24 flats in 2016.

Eighteen other residents who use the subterranean garage had moved their cars away from the site but she says she was not told about the flooding.

“The water came in on Friday December 20 and it was reported to Pembroke,” she said. “I was in the flat so I didn’t notice on the Saturday – nobody told me.

“I could see that Sainsbury’s car park was under water. I was wrapping presents and getting ready for Christmas.”

She only found out about the flood when she was about to head off to her parents’ house for Christmas.

“It was only on Sunday morning that I saw what had happened, when I was carrying all my presents out to the car. I burst into tears.

“There was a man from Pembroke there and he made no apology for what had happened. I got no sympathy whatsoever.

“He could see how upset I was but all he said was, ‘why didn’t you move your car?’”

“I told him I hadn’t moved it because I didn’t know it was happening. It would have been nice to get an email or something, but I got nothing.”

She added: “I’ve sent Pembroke constant emails but I have either been fobbed off or not contacted at all.

“I have made a formal complaint and said I will contact the Property Ombudsman if I had received no response in 21 days.”

Ms Garrott added: “My dad had to come and pick me up on the Sunday.

“I didn’t enjoy Christmas at all. And hospital appointments had to be cancelled because I couldn’t get there.”

The Legacy Manager for a major charity in London said she was still able to commute to work but added: “My car is my prized asset, my baby, I’ve had it since it was new.”

As a tenant she has no direct claim under the terms of the service charge. She is not able to buy a replacement car until the damaged one has been recovered.

Matt Boughton, one of Tonbridge & Malling Borough Council’s representatives for Medway ward where the property is situated, told the Times: “It is totally unacceptable for residents in Riverbank House to have their cars submerged in flood water almost one month on from the initial floods.

“The fact that Pembroke have made a conscious decision to keep cars submerged shows a lack of empathy towards residents’ needs.”

He added: “They first said they didn’t pump it out because they were consulting with the emergency services.

“But following a conversation I had with them it became clear that it was due to Pembroke making a conscious decision to approach insurers to see if they could cover the cost, before looking after the needs of residents.”

The management company says it has been waiting to carry out a test in the car park to determine whether the water had been contaminated by the cars, in which case it cannot be pumped into the river Medway.

Pembroke declined to respond to the Times but finally sent tenants an email last Friday [January 17] containing a chronology of what it had done.

The email stated: “We have received a complaint from a tenant whose car is under water in the basement.

“We understand the tenant’s desire to recover the cost of their car and its contents from their car insurance company.

“However, we must balance this against the much more significant cost to leaseholders, who pay the service charges for the building.

“It is essential that we carry out the required due diligence in dealing with this flood, so that we do not compromise any insurance claim.”

Pembroke added: “Unfortunately, it is not as simple as hiring a pump and pumping the water back into the river.

“There is around 1,000 cubic meters of water to be removed and it cannot be pumped back into the river if it is contaminated.”

Local MP Tom Tugendhat said: “The managing agent is hiding behind insurers, the Environment Agency and many others.

“This leaves residents in a really tricky position. There are cars down there, they’ve got personal items in, and they can’t hire, they can’t buy another car, they can’t move on until they’ve got their car out and recover their vehicle.

“This is unacceptable, I’m going to be raising it with ministers. You cannot treat residents like this.”

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