No bathroom, but rent rises by 300 per cent

One of Britain's richest families proposes massive increases for tenants in crumbling Hackney block

When one of the tenants in Graham Mansions, Hackney, in the East End of London, wants a bath, he takes the train to his sister's, two stops away. When the Pears family in Hampstead and Totteridge, north London, need a bath, they can choose from any of the numerous bathrooms in their palatial houses.

Graham Mansions, a crumbling Edwardian block on a main road, is owned by the Pearses, one of Britain's richest families with a fortune estimated at pounds 200m. Clarice Pears, 62, who heads the family, is the fourth wealthiest woman in Britain.

The Pearses have just hit their tenants with rent increases of up to 300 per cent, as much as pounds 500 per month in some cases for flats without bathrooms.

Mostly pensioners and the long-term unemployed, many of the 80 tenants live in the conditions of a bygone age. Apart from not having bathrooms - the tenants that have them have put them in themselves - they contend with crumbling brickwork, open drains, rotten window frames and gaping cracks in the exterior walls.

In a flat close to the man who takes the train to his sister's for a bath lives an 80-year-old pensioner. He has no bathroom and has received a demand for rent of pounds 500 per month, up frompounds 125. Like many tenants in Graham Mansions, his rent is paid by Hackney Housing Benefit. "Under section 604 of the Housing Act flats without bathrooms would qualify as unfit for human habitation," said a Hackney council press officer. Although the council pays the housing benefit, she said it could not enforce the installation of bathrooms.

Graham Mansions was bought by St Ermins Property Company in 1988. The block is managed by McDowells, a firm of chartered surveyors. Geoffrey Haig, of McDowells, refused to say who owned St Ermins. But a check at Companies House revealed it is part of the Pears family empire.

Every share in the company belongs to the Pearses. Last year St Ermins, which has four directors, Clarice, Mark, Stephen and David Pears, made profits of pounds 2.2m. The Pears' main company, William Pears Family Holdings, has assets of pounds 122m and last year made profits of pounds 9.7m. The four directors of the holding company were each paid pounds 350,000. The companies own properties across London. Their head office is in a Hampstead mews, close to the family's gracious homes. The family does not court publicity.

Under the terms of Graham Mansions' leases, the landlord is responsible for external repairs and maintenance.

Tenants have objected to the proposed rent increase, sending a list of grievances to the local Rent Officer. They include subsidence, causing cracks and rising floors, poor electrical wiring, dangerous windows,rotten sills, communal staircases that are wooden and could be a fire risk, leaking sewage, smelly drains and plumbing that overflows into the garden.

As flats fall vacant, they are being refurbished and bathrooms are being installed. One tenant, who did not want to be named, claimed in a letter to the Rent Officer that the proposed pounds 500 figure "is being based on empty flats that have been completely gutted and refurbished with the benefit of bathrooms, fitted kitchens, central heating and carpeting, throughout, and which I consider grossly unfair".

Two years ago St Ermins applied to have the rents increased to pounds 300 per month, up from pounds 80. The tenants appealed and after visiting the flats, the Rent Assessment Committee settled on pounds 110.50. The committee said the block was "in a state of obvious disrepair".

At the Pears company headquarters last Friday, a woman said that none of the family was there. Asked if they would talk about Graham Mansions, she said: "You need to write in, unfortunately. They won't take calls directly."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Junior Artworker / Junior Mac Artworker

£18 - 23k + Bonus + Benefits: Guru Careers: A Junior Artworker / Junior Mac Ar...

Guru Careers: Trainee Installation Engineer / Field Service Engineer / Customer Support Exec

£16 - 18k: Guru Careers: A Trainee Installation Engineer / Field Service Engin...

Recruitment Genius: Software Programmer / Developer

£18000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This ambitious and friendly sof...

Recruitment Genius: Software Sales Executive - OTE £80,000

£50000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This software company has been ...

Day In a Page

A groundbreaking study of 'Britain's Atlantis' long buried at the bottom of the North Sea could revolutionise how we see our prehistoric past

Britain's Atlantis

Scientific study beneath North Sea could revolutionise how we see the past
The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember,' says Starkey

The Queen has 'done and said nothing that anybody will remember'

David Starkey's assessment
Oliver Sacks said his life has been 'an enormous privilege and adventure'

'An enormous privilege and adventure'

Oliver Sacks writing about his life
'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

'Gibraltar is British, and it is going to stay British forever'

The Rock's Chief Minister hits back at Spanish government's 'lies'
Britain is still addicted to 'dirty coal'

Britain still addicted to 'dirty' coal

Biggest energy suppliers are more dependent on fossil fuel than a decade ago
Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

Orthorexia nervosa

How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

Lady Chatterley’s Lover

Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

Set a pest to catch a pest

Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

The dark side of Mexico

A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

A nap a day could save your life

A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

If men are so obsessed by sex...

...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

Rolling in the deep

The bathing machine is back but with a difference
Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935