Students Affected by Building Delays

Property development company Pinnacle Student Developments have come under fire for failing to complete building work on time, meaning many students had to move in to alternative accommodation or live in half finished developments.

Pinnacle began development of Asquith House and Austin Hall, two purpose built private halls of residence situated next to Leodis, in January 2015, and students who signed contracts were to move in September 2015.

However, according to the parent of a student tenant, a week before the start of term students were informed by Urban Student Life (USL), the letting agents for the property who were not responsible for the building work, that the accommodation wouldn’t be ready for a few weeks and they would be provided with hotel accommodation in the meantime.

Students were unable to move in to their accommodation until December 2015, and were informed that the halls would have a building certificate at this point.

According to the parent, who wishes to remain anonymous, the ground floor of the accommodation was still completely unfinished and open to the elements, although security guards are patrolling the development at all times to prevent break ins.

The parent also stated that the building had a fire safety certificate for habitation on the floors above the ground floor, but a full building certificate had not been signed off.

Speaking to The Gryphon the parent said, “If USL and Pinnacle had been up front with parents in September 2015 or earlier, then alternative accommodation could have been found; we would have had a choice!

“But ever since September 2015, we have been let down by the developers, time and time again, and it has become an experience that is hugely regrettable.”

He went on to state that a number of parents were refusing to pay the fees for the first term of residence, or were only paying a percentage of the full rent owed.

A group of Leeds University students have also contacted The Gryphon after they were forced in to finding new accommodation in September due to their flat on 75 Hyde Park Road still being under development by Pinnacle.

The three students, who do not wish to be named, signed for the three-bedroom flat in March 2015, and they state that at the end of July they were informed that the property had been sold to Pinnacle, and some minor refurbishments including new furniture and painting was to be carried out by the developers.

The flat was not ready in time for the tenants’ planned move in date on 1st September, and one tenant was forced in to sleeping on a friend’s sofa until Pinnacle organised hotel accommodation for the girls.

On 10th September, the revised moving in date, the girls were informed that their three-bedroom flat was being converted in to a four-bedroom property, with the open plan living area being cut in half.

As a concession, Pinnacle offered to temporarily furnish the fourth bedroom as a living room and only charge rent for three tenants, but the property still wouldn’t be ready until late September, leading the girls to decide to find accommodation elsewhere.

Speaking to The Gryphon, one of the tenants said of their experience “We have felt quite alone in all this, being students with no prior experience of this kind.

“We turned to Unipol, LUU Student Advice Centre ad LCC Housing Options team, none of which we feel have pursued the issues to a final conclusion.

“However, we are grateful for the help we have received and hope our story might help other students facing similar problems.”

A spokesperson from Pinnacle Student Developments (Leeds) Ltd said: “As developers, we would like to apologise for the disruption caused by the delays to the construction of Asquith House and Austin Hall. We fully understand the frustration and inconvenience caused by these unforeseeable and unavoidable setbacks in the construction phase.

“From the start, working with our partners, Urban Student Life, we have done everything possible to manage all issues as quickly and as smoothly as possible, while supporting students.

“We offered a range of alternative high quality accommodation to those affected including 3 and 4 star city centre hotels, apartments and refurbished student accommodation with allowances for meals, laundry and transport. We also accommodated individual requests wherever possible and have spent significant amounts of money to help rectify this difficult situation.

“Where requested we voided contracts and refunded associated rents paid in advance while throughout this period a USL team has been available to handle any issues.

“Students have now moved into Asquith House, but limited areas of the development are still under construction and so we have taken measures to ensure that the construction team remains separate from the students and access to and around the building is fully secure.

Further, the USL team is now based in the building liaising with students every day.

“We have at all times been committed to supporting students and addressing their concerns and we will continue to do so until the situation is fully resolved.”

(Image: Jack Roberts)

Jessica Murray

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