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Power struggle: electrical row at City apartments

Simon Binns reports on Salt'n'Pepper restaurant and Vicus residents row over electricity bill

Written by . Published on August 20th 2010.

Power struggle: electrical row at City apartments

A legal row has developed between Salt N Pepper restaurant on Liverpool Road in Manchester and the residents that live in the apartments above it.

The argument surrounds the use of electricity in the building, with the residents claiming the restaurant had been using their supply for two years without paying for it.

They are pursuing a legal claim for an amount thought to be worth about £30,000 through their management company Urban Bubble.

Ali Raza, who owns the restaurant, has issued his own claim against the residents however, who he says illegally disconnected his electricity supply last month.

The restaurant has since been reconnected and is trading, but Raza said the damage done to his business could be “around £100,000.”

“I lost a Friday and a Saturday night – that’s 90 per cent of my business,” he said. “I think it was wrong of them to do that.

“There had been problems with the electricity supply that dated back to when the building was first built and nobody could get access to the distributor to split it, but we’ve done that now.

“It’s difficult to see who’s fault it is. They claim I owe them; I claim they owe me. It’s in the hands of lawyers. If I wasn’t paying, I’d say fair enough, but everything is on meters and I think I’ve paid for what I’ve used.

“I don’t want to go to court but I will if I have to. They took the law into their own hands when they disconnected me. It might get expensive for everyone.”

The residents’ case is being handled by Michael Howard, the managing director of Urban Bubble. When Confidential contacted the firm for comment, a member of staff said Howard was on holiday and was unable to comment.

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33 comments so far, continue the conversation, write a comment.

DibigoAugust 18th 2010.

Went to Salt and Pepper earlier this month on a Thursday night, no where else was open. Worst meal I've ever eaten. Have had better microwave curries. Vile. Told the waiter it was the worst meal I've ever paid for. He tried to tell me it was authentic and unlike anything I've ever eaten before! I could have put the plate over his head and walked out but my wife didn't want that so I payed. Garbage. Don't go.

AnonymousAugust 18th 2010.

£100k for friday & Saturday nights' business at this place - you have got to be joking

AnonymousAugust 18th 2010.

My block in Castlefield (not Vicus) had a hefty electricity bill due to the bill not being paid for a couple of years by the management company, despite acruing for it.

There was an outstanding bill of £120,000 so the management company kindly added it on to the monthly charge which doubled and will remain so for many years to come.

Confidential should pick up on the story at St George's church apartments. Masonry is falling off and as the management company went belly up the residents have to foot the bill because insurers won't pay out.

A typical bill is £30,000 per apartment. If the problem doesn't get fixed they may be forced out of the building as it is unsafe.

AnonymousAugust 18th 2010.

You really should fight that Anon. I took a 'Management' Company to court a few years ago, and won. It was all about 'added' service charge and a slush fund that had not been put in place. Fight them, they don't expect it and often capitulate.

James11364August 18th 2010.

I am surprised at anon. Management Companies are elected by the Residents. Most blocks have them. They appoint Management Agents to run the block. Some block continue to be run by Freeholders are usually run developers directly or though management agents
There are a lot of other utility bills floating around somewhere round the City.

Buy a House not a FlatAugust 19th 2010.

This is a topic that is by far affecting the most residents in the city centre: management companies that aren't doing their job properly. Who are these people, what qualifications do they have? Mancunians are not used to living in flats, I predict that a third of the accommodation in the city centre will be rotten to bits only ten years from now...

AnonymousAugust 19th 2010.

Residents have the right to appoint the management company. If you don't like them, boot them.

It would be good to see a Mancon article on this though.

Simon Binns - News EditorAugust 19th 2010.

Interesting stuff Anon - get in touch

AnonymousAugust 19th 2010.

If this restaurant's trade is £100k for a weekend I am in the wrong job ! By my maths he is turning over a cool £5.2m a year- I wonder if this is reflected in his tax returns?!!

Leigh ScottAugust 19th 2010.

Sounds like Artisan to me ?

AnonymousAugust 19th 2010.

Urban Bubble have only just taken over the management of this building, so I bet it was the previous managing agents fault, and this was the reason why they were sacked and Urban Bubble have taken over!

Private vs PublicAugust 19th 2010.

Management Companies? Give them a break! All they do is rake in the dosh like those quangos in the public sector.

Those who are about to lose their jobs during the up and coming cuts might want to rebrand and open an MC? No qualifications required, just bullsh@t talking...

Man in a shedAugust 19th 2010.

Anonymous: "It would be good to see a Mancon article on this though."

Agreed, an article on management companies would be very useful.

Anon tooAugust 19th 2010.

In fairness tot he restaurant chap, he doesn't actually say he takes £100,000 on a Friday and Saturday night. I suppose damage to your business can be quantified in affected future earnings, etc...

San Carlo takes £150k a week so there's no way he'snpulling in £100k a weekend.

ali babaAugust 19th 2010.

i pay for my electricity and can produce bills to prove it, he cannot show evidence of payment because he has not paid for over two years,has he claimed back vat on his non payment of electicity, the poor residents have paid lets hope the police get involved the man is a thief

AnonymousAugust 19th 2010.

Definitely should be an article on management agents - we live in a building that is in deficit with service charge income against repair costs, and it came to light our agent was charging over £3,500 just for cleaning (there's less than 20 flats!) - the previous agent let the building fall to bits.

It's a joke and a serious topic that needs addressing.

Oh and £100k for friday and night's loss of busines?!? Bullsh1t!

BerrysAugust 19th 2010.

The debate on management companies highlights a general lack of understanding about who runs them and their purpose. There are two sorts, but the best, in my view, is where the flat owners own the management company and appoint the agents. This gives far greater control to run the building and fund it. Using a Chartered Surveyor gives protection to the money and some recourse if the agent does not do the job right.

Many flat buyers are unaware as to the workings and costs of management companies, a problem compounded when a flat is bought in a partly sold block.

Graham - Berrys

MikeAugust 19th 2010.

I had a terrible experience eating in Salt & Pepper. After having a horrendous meal I left walking down Rice street past the kitchen, only to see one of his chefs washing his dirty feet in the same basin as my dishes had been wahed in. This made me feel physically sick. This was disgusting and I have never in all my 36 years seen anything like it!! Salt & Pepper is to be avoided at all costs.

City dwellerAugust 19th 2010.

Thanks Graham,

There is as you say a general lack of understanding, and it's only since our building's management company (made up of resident shareholders) had to make the decision to self manage and ditch our agent that I've gained an understanding.

The agents are the ones who should be under greater scrutiny as they are just out to make a profit, whereby the management company generally looks out for the best interests of the building and it's residents / shareholders.

There should be financial penalties for agents who mis-manage a building as we're now left in an unenviable financial situation, worsened by being ripped off by previous agents.

AnonymousAugust 19th 2010.

It is nice to see in the present climate that businesses are doing so well,i'm sure the goverment and the tax man will be so pleased to receive the revenue on £100,000
for 2 nights work. Well done Mr Raza.
Thank you for contributing to the UK's economy.

AnonymousAugust 19th 2010.

If you are going to investigate management companies, look at the Royal Mills current fiasco. The residents committee are trying to get rid of Living City, who have palmed off complaints onto various contractors, the developers or not acted at all. They have had a huge list of problems, including:
- lifts being broken for a week
- the keypads being out of order meaning people cannot access their side of the buiding easily
- the understreet parking doors being defective so they didn't open, or were stuck open, meaning cars were vandalised and stolen
- bin store doors left unlocked so that the public could get into the building without keyfobs
Various residents have also taken out personl claims, and the committee is still waiting for complete accounts of their management fees after frequent requests.

jAugust 19th 2010.

I live in Market Buildings on High Street and have also had big problems with Living City, who appear to be incapable of resolving anything at all.

The window cleaning is one ongoing issue as many people have NEVER had their windows cleaned yet Living City have continued collecting the money each year despite being fully aware that certain windows were repeatedly being left out by the window cleaners. I don't believe they would pay the contractor the full amount for a half completed job so it appears they have been pocketing the extra cash themselves which is surely fraud!

Various other issues are also ongoing including in Design House opposite where they landed residents with a huge extra charge this year for electricity apparently due to a mistake by Eons meter readers, yet instead of challenging it as any normal person would they just paid up and passed the cost onto residents.

Any investigations by ManCon would be appreciated as Management companies and related agencies seem to make everything so complicated that it is difficult to get to the bottom of anything.

City dwellerAugust 19th 2010.

I was not going to mention names but Living City are a big cause of our situation. My comments about them are unprintable.

Leigh ScottAugust 19th 2010.

go on dweller!

DrakeAugust 19th 2010.

Yup, Living City are just appalling. Cleaning staff are nice enough, but the dilapidation in quite highly-specced apartments (Icon 25 and Design House) over the past three years is dreadful.

Just wondered if the other residents in the area know that ALL the CCTV in our buildings is fake. Cos the homeless certainly do. And some lovely trumped-up charges slapped onto the service charge this year--am now paying £150 a month for a one-bedroom flat, which is ridiculous.

Problem is, with the majority of flats rented out, getting to the owners of them to gather enough votes to force the agents out is near-impossible.

Buy a house not a flatAugust 19th 2010.

Jeez, what did i start here?

AnonymousAugust 19th 2010.

Does anyone else find the name of the management company, 'Urban Bubble', supremely apt for city centre apartments in Manchester?

Roger rodeoAugust 19th 2010.

salt n pepper is well known for abusing their license and running events after hours. this makes those not involved in this electricity dispute think they have been breaking the rules!

anon from TFAugust 20th 2010.

Not all management companies are bad. Complete Management at the Tobacco Factory Phase 1 do a good honest job, they are up front about how much things will cost and work hard for their money.

round the cornerAugust 20th 2010.

I agree that the number of buy-to-lets and (sometimes) apathetic tenants makes getting rid of a bad management company almost impossible.

I had a terrible time at Meadow View - it took me ages to find out who the management company even was, as the letting agency didn't have a clue! It was some place in Altrincham, and they never visited. What's the point in having a company that's not local and doesn't come to check up on the building?

And I was just renting - god knows what it was like for any owner occupiers, but it seemed to be mostly buy-to-let. I felt like no one gave a toss, but I was damned if I wasn't going to sort out problems that affected our day to day living. I had to spend a considerable amount of time on building issues that should have been the job of a live-in super or building manager.

Problems included:

- Failing to distribute the entry code to the elec/water meter room (took me months to get it, had to pay estimated bill charges in the meantime)
- no info/signs up anywhere on how to deal with the main fire alarm, or how to switch it off
- Complaints about rowdy tenants were very difficult to pursue, as you had no idea who the landlord was and the mgmt company were slow to act
-When the tv aerial broke after a winter storm, the management company told me the only access was via a cherry picker which would eat up the entire year's budget. After I challenged this, they "realised" they could put a ladder up the skylight.
- After I noticed the windows hadn't been done in a while, I rang up and they said they'd cancelled window washing without any notice, nor giving any particular reason except that it was expensive. I was able to reach some of them, but quite a few of our windows were disgusting for the rest of our tenancy.

JAugust 20th 2010.

Can you not contact the management company and get the names and addresses of all owners? They work for you so you should be able to.

Btw, not long ago I managed to get rid of our old management company so it can be done.

We use Regalty Estates now who seem to be doing a good job (far better than the old one anyway).

If you need names and addresses of landlords then this information might be available on Companies House? Or the management company itself should provide these on request...although I know they can be difficult if they want to be...through experience :(

AnonymousAugust 20th 2010.

Re:anon from TF - Complete Property Management.

You're very lucky as we also have Complete Property Managment and they are garbage. They were good at first but now just do as little as they can and fob off anyone with complaints. Think they got a bit too big too quickly and now struggle to deliver the quality they once did. We've recently had bill for something missed off the budget as the slush fund has gone!!

Additionally they seem to have some very close relationships with contractors who seem to put inflated quotes in for repairs, so the cost of running the block has increased dramatically recently.

There are not very many good managment companies around - you're better having a dedicated residents committee full of buisness people running the site who care what happens to their biggest home and lets not forget their biggest financial asset.

Couldn't agree more that an article on managemnet companies and running your own block would be extremely useful

jamesJanuary 25th 2011.

Can everybody who is having issues with Living City please email me at jamestibbles[at]hotmail[dot]com as soon as possible. Thanks

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