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Owner of Multi-Million Pound UK Flat Sues Over Poor Broadband

Monday, December 9th, 2019 (3:07 pm) - Score 5,599

The owner of a £2.95m 30th floor apartment in The Heron (Barbican, London), 70 year old travel boss Stephen Shalson, is suing the building’s owners – Heron Residences LLP – for £97,300 after he moved in to find that the property didn’t have good broadband, which forced him to get online via external locations instead (cafes etc.).

Mr Shalson says that the problem went on for about “a thousand days” before Hyperoptic finally turned up, in October 2016, to bring the building into the modern full fibre age. Prior to that point he claims to have had no adequate connectivity within the apartment itself, which he says is despite allegedly being told (through conveyancing solicitors) that his apartment would have “good quality broadband internet available in all rooms.”

However Heron Residences LLP refutes the claim that cabling for data services was part of a clause in the sale contract and that it ever suggested to him that there would be quality broadband in all rooms. The building owner’s Barrister, Robert Bowker, told the Central London County Court that having an internet connection from the time of purchase was “not an outstanding obligation or provision in the contract of sale.”

Daniel Goodkin, Mr Shalson’s Barrister, said (Standard):

“When he moved in the apartment had no internet facility of any sort, including fibre broadband or Hyperoptic … Given the price of the apartment, the fact that it was a new luxury development and its situation in central London, it was so obvious as not to require express statement that the apartment would have a good quality internet service available in all rooms from the time he purchased it.”

Admittedly we don’t feel too much pity for a multi-millionaire who probably should have done a better coverage check before parting with so much money, although it does raise an interesting point about how many large apartment blocks – even those owned by extremely wealthy tenants – can still lack decent broadband connectivity.

In that sense it’s worth noting that a lot of people in some distantly less expensive apartment buildings can and do suffer from the same sort of problem. All of that makes the potential future outcome of this case quite an interesting one to watch.

Meanwhile the Government is currently in the process of developing new rules, which aim to make it easier – and thus potentially also cheaper – for “gigabit-capable” broadband ISPs and mobile operators to access big apartment blocks (Multi-Dwelling Units) when “rogue landlords” fail to respond (here).

In this case it’s unclear why the building’s owners took so long to resolve the issue. Likewise nobody attempts to clearly define what “good quality broadband” should constitute, from a legal perspective, above. However from March 2020 Ofcom would perhaps say that 10Mbps+ via the Universal Service Obligation (USO) should suffice.

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30 Responses
  1. New_Londoner says:

    It would be a really simple matter for the landlords to fix this – I’m sure that they could do so for substantially less than the £97,300 being asked for here. That sum would cover the cost of a leased line to the building for a decade and leave plenty over for the in-building works, assuming that the landlord took a DIY approach.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      The £97k is reportedly compensation for all the days he went without “good quality broadband.” As above, Hyperoptic already fixed the underlying problem.

  2. NE555 says:

    “it was so obvious as not to require express statement”

    Aha, so they admit it wasn’t in the contract after all. Good luck with that then 🙂

    As for a “new luxury development and its situation in central London” – big chunks of central London are a not-spots with EO lines only. That’s no secret.

  3. Roger_Gooner says:

    Isn’t 24Mbps considered to be the minimum download speed for broadband?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Yes but that’s a commitment, not a binding obligation.

  4. The Facts says:

    7M ADSL available. So he moved in 6 years ago which was a time when BDUK started funding places with FTTC while many had ADSL. What would he have expected then?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      As he lived in a dense urban / commercial area and it was around the end of the main rollout for FTTC, then I expect he might have reasonably expected either FTTC or Virgin Media cable. At least that would be the case if parts of central London weren’t stuffed full of tedious EOLs.

    2. Brian says:

      7Mbps ADSL, that would be a massive improvement.

    3. The Facts says:

      @MJ – ‘reasonably expected’. I think not. What was ISPR saying back then?

    4. beany says:

      More than double that 7Mb could had been expected in a new building development back in 2013. Given the average back then was over 14Mb……..

      Of course im sure you know better than Ofcom.

  5. Mike says:

    He not hear of 4G?

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Apparently he couldn’t get a reliable connection from that either, at least not on 30th floor.

  6. mike says:

    How should he have done a coverage check for a building that hadn’t been completed?

  7. Granola says:

    £97,300 / 1000 days = £97.30 a day spent in the cafe (or not) unless he has his receipts of course.

  8. Jonny says:

    If a lot of the units in a building are places for people to park cash rather than live in, then there’s not always a clear commercial benefit to someone like Hyperoptic installing their services.

  9. boggits says:

    I think part of his issue might be that across the road in the “housing estate” was FTTH from VFM at 1G

  10. Richie Brian says:

    How exactly did they arrive at the £97k figure? I went almost 5 years without good broadband in my newbuild house, due to some dispute between the developers and Openreach (which still hasn’t been resolved) leaving coils of fibre cable outside some houses, but none with any connection at all for 6 months, then 2mb/s, then after another 4 years FTTC – it should have been FTTP from the beginning. In that time – more like 1500 days – I didn’t earn £97k (after tax) – but then I don’t live in a £3m flat.

  11. Chris Sayers says:

    You would have thought that a £89 million property would have gigabit broadband to each resident, sounds like they were tight fisted, I hope he wins, as it would be a wake up call for developer’s to install decent broadband before the problem of wayleaves rears its ugly head.

  12. CarlT says:

    Going by a couple of other stories it looks like this gentleman has a few issues with the company. Doesn’t seem to have been paying his fees and that ended up in court, too.

  13. SuperFast Dream says:

    …and the moral of the story is, you don’t get much for £2.95m these days .

  14. Rahul says:

    We need new legislation’s implemented by the government to force installations of Fibre optic cables into private properties, until that doesn’t happen, the UK will of-course not achieve 100% Full Fibre by 2033. This is one of the reasons why we have Fibre to the Cabinet as it isn’t dependent on wayleave.

    I finally have Fibre to the Cabinet as of October the 1st after 10 years of waiting here near City of London. My management team have repeatedly refused to give wayleave agreement to Hyperoptic last 4 years and I’m a Hyperoptic Champion & in fact promised that I will get 1 year free broadband if I manage to convince my management team to give them the installation permission.

    Despite telling my building estate management team last 4 years that we don’t even have FTTC they couldn’t care less about their residents needs saying it wasn’t a priority at this stage. Yes, it is very frustrating, but what can we do! We have to wait for the government to do something.

    Meanwhile our 2 other properties that are under Tower Hamlets Homes that’s partly owned by Council have just granted permission a couple of weeks ago to my amazement to both of them. One of them located in Shoreditch didn’t even have any residents register their interest at all. The building wasn’t even recognized in Hyperoptic map and it magically reappeared with “We have an agreement to proceed with our installation for your building.”

    And yes, they are only 17 flats and 48 flats respectively, no where near the 82 flats of my building, yet they will get Hyperoptic. Ok, one of them doesn’t even have FTTC, no plans for it.

    However, it is the fault of the buyer for not researching properly on broadband availability for his property. I’d first start off by going to the BT ADSL checker website and see what kind of FTTC speeds are available if at all/ and or if there is FTTP or a plan for FTTP. I would then check Hyperoptic, Virgin Media, G.Network, CommunityFibre, etc and input the post codes and see if it is available. If a buyer hasn’t done his/her research they really have no right to complain.

    When we bought our properties 10 years ago around 2005 Fibre barely existed as a technology in the UK. But if I were to now theoretically buy another property then I would do the research properly. It only takes less than 5 minutes of research to find out what kind of broadband is available.

  15. Richie Brian says:

    Labour’s idea about treating broadband as a basic utility like power and water, which are in all newbuilds as a matter of course, sounds more and more sensible.

    1. Mark Jackson says:

      Only if you casually look at the optimistic end-goals, and thus choose to ignore all of the many significant problems that would be caused along the way toward actually implementing free full fibre for all.

      There are around 100,000 workers in the industry and many of those could lose their jobs as ISPs go out of business. This is also just the direct ISP chain, not second and third tier suppliers that would also be affected.

      I mean sure, if you want to destroy an entire industry and you’re happy to do that then who doesn’t like free stuff? But you’re just shifting the financial burden to the public sector and the public sector then pays significantly more as private investment would dry up overnight (slowing the rollout in the process).

      I recall Labour raising hell when coal miners across the north lost their jobs, which is something they’ve complained about for decades. Yet they now seem content to put masses of people out of work in the broadband sector. Just to be clear, there are lots of things I like about Labour’s manifesto but this is not one of them. They could have done something similar and in a less disruptive way.

    2. Roger_Gooner says:

      The water industry consists of a number of natural monopolies which maintain plant and pipework, supply clean water and remove waste via foul sewer drains and surface water sewer drains. But anyone with a smidgen of understanding of the broadband industry knows that it’s very different with variety of technologies and companies which provide a range of services. Competition, innovation and private financing would be ended by a British Broadband providing free broadband to all. The fact that Labour didn’t bother consulting with the industry prior to its announcement of nationalisation is telling.

    3. beany says:

      Turns out the country did not agree to the socialism fantasy and it appears neither did many in the Labour party. Better luck next time to those that do not believe hard work should equal reward, rather than just dishing out money for nothing and raping those who earned it.

      Hopefully the end of the apparent EU remain chirping also. If you were in that camp, all you all had to do was vote for Jo Swinson for your second chance to stay in the EU. Turns out that idea was also a failure, a lost seat and like last time apparently still not what majority actually want.

      (*cue the SJW attacks)

    4. Rahul says:

      Free Full Fibre to the Premises broadband for all by 2030 was obviously unrealistic! The UK only has 10% FTTP and by renationalising the BT Openreach network and making it free will hurt business! Then alternative Fibre broadband providers will hesitate to invest in their infrastructure. Not to mention getting wayleave agreements from private landowners and building management for the permission of Fibre broadband installation which is another problem that could potentially take years. Just one of my leaseholder’s property here near the City of London has taken 10 years just to get Fibre to the Cabinet. Management team has refused for 4 years to give permission for Full Fibre to Hyperoptic. Renationlizing BT Openreach means altnet providers will hesitate to build their networks which will result in a slower rollout of Full Fibre.

      ISP’s giveaway free routers and this works by charging subscription. Instead Corbyn should’ve promised that they will implement new legislation’s to simplify wayleave agreements for Fibre broadband installation into private lands and buildings/properties, this would’ve been a more realistic pledge.

      Privatization is a good thing and renationalising many of the public sectors would result in worse quality services and greater taxation which is what many voters feared.

      This is what costed him the election. People did not believe his huge promises and those who did feared that this will result in inflation and more taxation.

  16. The Facts says:

    In 2013 7M would be considered good?

    1. beany says:

      NO 7Mb would not be considered good, so you can stop the disjointed posting now…

      Of course im sure you know better than Ofcom.

    2. TheFacts says:

      Was a question.

    3. Go away says:

      Looks like he gave you an answer *twice* just for good measure to show 7Mb back then was not good. Did it hurt being wrong AGAIN?

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