By Harry Scoffin
A millionaire travel tycoon has marched his freeholder to court over a failure to provide internet to his luxury flat in The Heron, Barbican.
Stephen Shalson, 70, moved into the apartment in London’s Square Mile in February 2014 and claims he had to endure “about a thousand days” of non-service.
He says this was despite being assured by conveyancing solicitors that the £2.95 million deluxe flat would be “wired for Sky TV and internet” from the moment he moved in.
Stephen Shalson moved into flat in The Heron, Barbican, in February 2014 Building offered high-end facilities including restaurant and valet parking But Mr Shalson was infuriated discovered he could not get online in new flat Had to endure ‘about a thousand days’ without broadband until October 2016 Tycoon made fortune in travel industry and owned firm selling Concorde holidays A livid tycoon who had to use his local library and internet cafe to get online because his brand new £2.95m apartment didn’t have broadband is suing the owners of the luxury block for £100,000.
In court documents, the defence argues that having an internet connection from the time of purchase was “not an outstanding obligation or provision in the contract of sale.”
The lack of internet stands in contrast to the plush development’s other offerings: a private members’ club, roof terrace, restaurant, and valet parking.
One buyer snapped up a leasehold tenancy to one of the penthouses for £18m.
Mr Shalson says he was left with no choice but to leave his home on the 30th floor and venture to a cafe in King’s Cross or his brother’s Hampstead home in order to get online.
He was also a regular at the local library.
It was only in October 2016 that the situation was resolved, when Hyperoptic cabling was installed in the 36-storey building.
A millionaire travel tycoon who resorted to using a library and internet cafe to get online when his apartment did not have broadband is suing for almost £100,000 in damages. Stephen Shalson, 70, says he was promised his £2.95 million deluxe flat on the 30th floor of The Heron, Barbican, would be “wired for Sky TV and internet” from the moment he moved in, in February 2014.
The businessman, who amassed his fortune selling Concorde holidays, is claiming breaches of the contract of sale and lease, as well as under the Defective Premises Act.
“When he moved in, the apartment had no internet facility of any sort, including fibre broadband or Hyperoptic. He was thus deprived of the use of internet within the apartment,” said Mr Shalson’s barrister, Daniel Goodkin.
He added: “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.”
“He paid £2.95m for this apartment in a brand new high luxury residential development and did not have any internet… This was not trivia,” he continued.
Mr Shalson tried to rely on his own 4G connection during the period of non-service, but claims his connection was so poor during the day that he was prevented from sending or receiving emails.
The travel magnate is suing freeholder Heron Residences LLP for £97,300, which works out at £100 per day in compensation. The figure is said to reflect “the time and cost incurred accessing alternative internet facilities”.
The freehold-owning entity is an interest of Heron International, the vastly successful British property development company run by octogenarian Gerald Ronson, who made headlines in the 1980s as one of the four executives embroiled in the Guinness shares collusion scheme.
Heron CEO Gerald Ronson served six months in prison for the company’s alleged role in the illegal share-fixing operation behind the 1986 Guinness ‘takeover battle’ for Scottish firm Distillers.
He has always maintained his innocence, saying he never acted in bad faith and that the charges were politically motivated.
Following release, the developer staged a remarkable business turnaround and has cemented a reputation as one of the UK’s most generous philanthropists.
The internet woes of Mr Shalson and his neighbours at The Heron seem to have evaded Gerald Ronson.
In a profile by the Sunday Times, the veteran property guru is described as “a stickler for detail”, who still insists on personal monthly inspections of “every building he owns”.
The trouble with Gerald Ronson is he never knows when to stop. Blunt, driven, aggressive, devilishly proud – he is still going strong at 71, and everything that makes him a great businessman also makes him difficult. And he loves it. “You should be a psychiatrist, shouldn’t you?”
At the pre-trial hearing at central London county court, the freeholder’s legal team urged the judge to throw out the case, saying that it was an “abuse of the legal process”.
The defence claimed that the issue had already been dealt with in past litigation over service charges.
But Judge Richard Roberts rejected the move, adding: “there has been no abuse of process here”.
The judge’s ruling means Mr Shalson’s case against his freeholder can now go ahead with a trial set for next year.
Although the internet dispute involves the super-rich and a prime London site, many leaseholders will sympathise with Mr Shalson’s experience.
Third-party freeholders have long been identified as a hindrance to the rollout of fibre optic broadband, with Openreach CEO Clive Selley saying that “it’s tough in London to work out who owns buildings and contact them … buildings are owned by people across the planet. I worry that some connections could take years if the building owners don’t come forward.”
In an attempt to fix this, one of leasehold’s many problems, the Telecommunications Infrastructure (Leasehold Property) Bill has been proposed.
If passed, the law would put new obligations on landlords to facilitate the deployment of digital infrastructure when they receive a request from their leasehold tenants.
Supporters of the DCMS initiative say it would make it easier for internet providers to use magistrates courts to gain entry to leasehold blocks where a landlord is failing to cooperate.
The bill follows a story by The Times in May:
Hundreds of thousands of households are missing out on being connected to super-fast broadband because of the opaque world of leasehold property ownership.Campaigners have recently raised concerns about the way many flats are owned by freeholders. These can charge high fees to residents who own only