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."

Travel
travel
Arts and Entertainment
The cast of The Big Bang Theory in a still from the show
tvBig Bang Theory filming delayed by contract dispute over actors' pay
Sport
England celebrate a wicket for Moeen Ali
sportMoeen Ali stars with five wickets as Cook's men level India series
News
Morrissey pictured in 2013
people
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
Voices
A family sit and enjoy a quiet train journey
voicesForcing us to overhear dull phone conversations is an offensive act, says Simon Kelner
News
peopleGuitarist, who played with Aerosmith, Lou Reed and Alice Cooper among others, was 71
Travel
travel
News
Robyn Lawley
people
News
people
News
i100  ... he was into holy war way before it was on trend
Arts and Entertainment
High-flyer: Chris Pratt in 'Guardians of the Galaxy'
filmThe film is surprisingly witty, but could do with taking itself more seriously, says Geoffrey Macnab
News
people
Life and Style
food + drinkVegetarians enjoy food as much as anyone else, writes Susan Elkin
Life and Style
lifeDon't get caught up on climaxing
Life and Style
tech
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

1st line call logger/ User access administrator

£9 Per Hour: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based in Warrington a...

Shine Night Walk 2014 - 'On the night' volunteer roles

Unpaid Voluntary Work : Cancer Research UK: We need motivational volunteers to...

Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable & Accounts Receivable)

£23000 - £25000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Accounts Assistant (Accounts Payable...

Senior IT Trainer - Buckinghamshire - £250 - £350 p/d

£200 - £300 per day: Ashdown Group: IT Trainer - Marlow, Buckinghamshire - £25...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star