A businessman who spent £ 2.5m on a luxury London apartment is suing the developer and freeholder, claiming he has been tormented by a popping noise.
Tycoon Nazirali Tejani, 70, is seeking more than £ 1million in damages over the sounds he says are ‘unbearable’ and wake him up at night.
He bought his plush apartment in upmarket Fitzroy Place – the capital’s first new garden square in over a century – off-plan in 2012, shelling out £ 2,595m for the flat near Oxford Street.
But soon after moving in, he complained his peace had been shattered by a clicking or popping noise.
He characterized it as being ‘akin to popping bubble wrap’ and said it ran through the entire flat and woke him when sleeping.
Other residents described a similar noise, but despite extensive work, Mr Tejani says its source was not found and he is now suing the freeholder and developer for more than £ 1m in damages.
The tycoon, whose business interests include pharmaceuticals and property, says the flat was not worth anything like the amount he paid and that he has lost out in not being able to live there or rent it out.
Freeholder, Fitzroy Place Residential Ltd, and developer, 2-10 Mortimer Street GP Ltd, however deny liability in a High Court battle set to begin next month.
Tycoon Nazirali Tejani, 70, in happier times before the alleged flat nightmare began for him
According to documents filed ahead of the trial, Mr Tejani first complained about the noise in 2016, soon after completion of Fitzroy Place, a residential, office and commercial development on the site of the old Middlesex Hospital, in Fitzrovia.
The development, set around a new garden square, features 289 multi-million pound apartments, plus office space and restaurants, while incorporating the Grade-II listed Fitzrovia Chapel.
His lawyers say that the noise is caused by ‘defects in the design and / or construction of the facade of the building,’ which have not been resolved despite extensive efforts.
‘The timing of the noise is intermittent and noise level varies depending on the time of the year and time of the day,’ says his barrister, Timothy Dutton QC, in case papers.
‘The noise occurs both day and night. It is loud enough to wake the claimant and his wife di lui when sleeping.
‘The noise cannot be suppressed or masked and can be heard even if a television or radio is playing in the apartment and irrespective of whether internal doors are closed.’
In complaint emails, Mr Tejani demanded that the noise – which ‘radiates across the whole apartment’ – be investigated and solved, complaining that he could not ‘cannot tolerate it any longer.’
In September 2018, he wrote: ‘The reason I keep nagging at this matter is because the noise is unbearable and I cannot stay in the flat any longer due to it.’
The apartment block in luxury Fitzroy Place, where Nazirali Tejani bought his £ 2.5m apartment
Mr Dutton said contractors had been enlisted to investigate the noise source, but repeated works ‘did not remedy the defect or uncover the cause of the noise, or abate the noise,’ leading Mr Tejani to sue.
‘The noise is described as being intermittent, not cyclical,’ the QC continues.
‘The noise as experienced in the apartment by the claimant is worse in the summer months.
‘The noise is a loud’ pop ‘or’ crack ‘at irregular intervals, but at its worst approximately every 15 minutes.
‘The claimant will also rely on similar complaints about the noise from the owners of [other] apartments. It is averred that those complaints relate substantially to the same cause.
‘The matters complained of have caused annoyance, discomfort, distress and loss of amenity to the claimant, who has been unable to occupy the property as he intended when he purchased the property and unable to rent the property out to a tenant.’
Mr Dutton claims that the developer is in breach of its contract in failing to ‘remedy the aforesaid defects’ and both developer and freeholder in breach of their duty under the lease to ‘give the claimant quiet enjoyment of its premises.’
He continues: ‘The matters set out above give rise to a common law private noise nuisance for which the defendants are responsible.
‘Following the service of expert valuation evidence, the claimant’s case is that the noise has reduced the apartment’s capital value; that the noise has made the apartment more difficult to let and has reduced its rental value, and that while the apartment remains unlet and unsold it is of no value to him because he finds the noise unbearable. ‘
Mr Tejani claims that, due to the noise, the apartment was worth £ 815,000 less than he paid, but that he also took a hit by overpaying stamp duty and other purchase costs.
He also lost out in spending more than £ 110,000 improving and furnishing the flat, and up to another £ 300,000 which he says he could have made in selling it on soon after it was built.
In a written defense to the claim, Gary Blaker QC denies that there are any ‘defects in the design or construction of the building’ and says Mr Tejani is due no compensation.
‘From the defendants’ investigations the noise cannot be heard throughout the apartment but is more localized and can only be heard at limited times,’ he says.
‘The noise is a short click akin to popping bubble wrap and which is infrequent. The frequency of the clicking noise increases when it is sunny.
‘The noise is not at a level that should wake up any occupant of the apartment.’
He continues: ‘Notwithstanding the fact that the defendants do not accept that a defect is present at the building and / or apartment, the defendants have since 2018 carried out extensive tests and works to identify the cause of and thereafter remedy the clicking / popping noise . ‘
He said experts thought the noise may be coming from a window mullion, but accepts that the noise has not gone.
Mr Blaker also denies that Mr Tejani has made any losses on the property, which he says has been perfectly habitable throughout.
Mr Tejani had rejected offers which would have seen him make a profit on the apartment, and had also turned down offers to rent it because the offered rents were not high enough.
He had also stayed there with his family on occasions, while his son, Amirali, had stayed there frequently, using it as a pied a terre until at least 2018, he said.
‘All of the above acts were inconsistent with the apartment being unfit for habitation,’ he says.
The case is due to be heard next month by a High Court judge.