Estate agents are advertising flats for sale in a high-risk building without telling the public that they aren't eligible for mortgages, The Gazette can reveal. 

This newspaper found nine listings for properties at Crown Heights, on Alencon Link in Basingstoke, advertised on Rightmove today. 

Romans Basingstoke, Winkworth Basingstoke, Vesta, British Homesellers and Express had no detail in their listings about the fire safety concerns which mean lenders won't offer mortgages. 

National Trading Standards said failure to supply the correct information was a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. 

The Gazette has contacted each business individually with Vespa and Winkworth Basingstoke removing their listings from the website. 

Basingstoke Gazette: 'Wide appeal': Winkworth's advert for one of the flats in Crown Heights'Wide appeal': Winkworth's advert for one of the flats in Crown Heights

The Gazette broke the news earlier this month that the block of flats was deemed a fire risk after failing a recent cladding inspection.

Inspectors found there were no fire breaks between the highly-flammable cladding, meaning in the event of a fire, the building could burn in the same manner as Grenfell Tower, which killed 72 people in 2017.

As a result of the failings, lenders and high street banks will no longer offer mortgages on properties at Crown Heights.

This has left a number of owners lumbered with charges imposed by the building's leaseholder to cover short-term fixes and keen to sell up. 

But in some listings found by The Gazette today, the adverts were not clear to the public that the homes were not suitable for those looking to take out a mortgage. 

Basingstoke Gazette: Winkworth has since said it will be speaking to its client and amending the listing Winkworth has since said it will be speaking to its client and amending the listing

Furthermore, none of the listings mentioned the additional service charges new buyers would have to pay to contribute to making the building safe. 

Emma Cooke, policy and information Manager at the National Trading Standards Estate & Letting Agency Team, said: “Buying or renting a home is one of the biggest purchasing decisions that people make in their lifetimes.

"Material information should be available to consumers making a property transaction in order for them to be able to make a fully informed decision.

"Failure to make this information available is a breach of the Consumer Protection from Unfair Trading Regulations 2008. This relates to any information that may impact on the average consumer’s transactional decisions.”

As detailed in The Gazette earlier this month, residents are having to contribute towards a £6,700 weekly cost to cover the price of a 24-hour fire watch. 

Out of all the estate agents, only two made it explicitly clear in their listing that the properties would be suitable for cash buyers only.

Kieran Galloway, senior sales negotiator at Your Move, said it was vital that estate agents were transparent about these properties which is why the two homes they are representing in Crown Heights are both advertised to investors only.

He said: "As estate agents, we have to specifically list that these properties are available for cash buyers only. This is because you can't get a mortgage on them because they are high risk." 

Speaking about Crown Heights, he raised concerns about FirstPort - the building's leasing firm - for their poor communication and lack of transparency over the safety issues.

"They are useless. We tried from January to December last year to get a report from them. And we couldn't. They are disgusting," he said.  

"Residents should not be paying for these problems. While some of the properties will get government funding, some of these owners will have to cough up anywhere between £2,000 to £17,000 on top of their mortgages." 

Mr Galloway said however it was not necessarily all bad news for residents as they had received interest from investors looking for a quick sale. 

Though he said owners might have to accept they wouldn't be able to get the price they were hoping for. 

Vesta, a London-based property firm, was advertising a two-bedroom apartment as an 'investment opportunity' that could generate £11,400 per annum in rent. It was reduced in October 2020.

After The Gazette contacted them, a spokesman said they would be removing the listing.
A spokesman said: "Thank you for bringing this to our attention.  

"We have not been made aware that the final report on the cladding survey had been issued.  We will de-list the property and revert to the vendor for clarification on the current position.

They added: "We endeavour to ensure all our listings are accurate at the time of publishing."

Meanwhile, Winkworth Basingstoke, based at 10 Church Street, said it would be discussing the issues with their client and would be updating the listing.

The Basingstoke agency had two apartments listed - one was added to Rightmove in May 2017, exactly one month before the Grenfell fire. 

In the advert, which has since been removed, it read: "This fourth-floor apartment is set right in the heart of Basingstoke’s town centre so will have wide appeal (especially to investors). It has two double bedrooms and a west-facing balcony with a far-reaching view and is available with no onward chain.

"The property is currently tenanted so could appeal to both investors or owner-occupiers."

In a second listed by the same business, added on October 13, 2020, around the time that enquiries were being made into the cladding, its description read that the vendor was "keen to sell" and was open to offers. 

Basingstoke Gazette: St Albans-based firm advertises another property at Crown Heights St Albans-based firm advertises another property at Crown Heights

This comes as the government has announced a £3.5billion fund to fix dangerous cladding on high-rise buildings across England, with an offer to leaseholders such as FirstPort to fix similar problems. 

The government's Fire Safety Bill is due to be considered in the House of Lords next week. The government is facing pressure to ensure that leaseholders of flats in unsafe tower blocks do not face huge bills for safety work, and excessive insurance premiums.

Basingstoke-based estate agent Mr Galloway, of YouMove, said he believed the government had used the stamp duty announcements last year to bury bad news over the nationwide cladding scandal. 

"All the press around stamp duty was to overshadow this massive cladding problem affecting thousands of people which will cost millions of pounds to fix," he said.

FirstPort has been contacted for comment.

Basingstoke and Deane Borough Council and Hampshire County Council has been contacted for comment.