Stylist demands £265,000 from Notting Hill neighbours after dust ‘ruins’ handbags

Stylist demands £265,000 from Notting Hill neighbours after dust ‘ruins’ handbags

A stylist from Notting Hill is suing her neighbours after claiming that dust from construction work they carried out in their apartment ruined her designer handbag collection worth £14,500.

Maria Serra, who describes herself as an “international fashion stylist”, told the high court in London that she was seeking £250,000 in damages from estate agent David Harvey and his wife because “dust ingress” from renovations on their apartment turned her home uninhabitable and ruined her 26 vintage handbags from designers like Chanel and Paco Rabanne.

Ms Serra moved into her £570,000 ground-floor apartment in 2008, two years after the Harveys bought their £580,000 basement property.

In 2016, Ms Serra got into a dispute with the Harveys when they commissioned renovations to build a “conservatory-type” extension.

Mr Harvey runs Horne and Harvey in St James, an estate agency.

Lawyers representing the Harveys said Ms Serra’s claims were “frankly absurd” and that she “grossly inflated” the value of her handbags, which could all be cleaned and restored at “minimal” cost.

Maria Serra moved into her apartment in Notting Hill in 2008 (Getty)
Maria Serra moved into her apartment in Notting Hill in 2008 (Getty)

Gavin Hamilton, representing Ms Serra, said her flat was “pristine” and “dust free” before the construction work began.

“Ms Serra kept the flat in good condition. It was free of dust prior to the works. There is no rational explanation for the presence of dust inside the flat other than it must have come from the works below,” said Mr Hamilton.

He went on to add that the Harveys did not use “adequate plastic sheeting” to contain the dust and caused “nuisance, damage or annoyance” to Ms Serra, therefore breaking the terms of their lease.

Ms Serra claimed that she moved from the apartment in 2016 as she “could not cope any more with the noise, dust and general disruption”.

She is seeking £9,685 in repair costs, £105,110 in future repair costs, £7,777 as indemnity against a service charge, and an unspecified amount for allegedly damaged fashion items such as the handbag collection which she said required replacement or costly repairs.

She is also demanding £25,435 as storage charges for high-fashion items and £116,777 to cover mortgage payments from 2016 till date as she was forced to leave her apartment after the work started and has not lived there since.

Edward Blakeney, representing the Harveys, said council inspectors had visited the site after Ms Serra’s complaint and found “no sign of dust or dusty works”.

He insisted that the “works were carried out appropriately so as to minimise the escape of dust and cracking in the ground floor flat and any dust or cracking came from other sources”.

“Even if the claimant has suffered substantial damage to the ground floor flat, which, for the avoidance of doubt, is denied, that is not sufficient to make out a claim in nuisance,” he told the court.

“The reason she is claiming damages for items that may seem trifling and that are still functional is because of her particular line of work.

“The claimant’s image and that of the ground floor flat is so fundamental to the work she undertakes that everything must be pristine, even if it can still be used.

“The claimant grossly inflated the value of her handbag collection and a claim for reinstatement value unjustified when the items can be cleaned.

“Upon cleaning, the claimant’s losses will be minimal.”

The case was due for trial this week but was adjourned after a short hearing in the wake of problems arising from last minute evidence submission. It will be heard at a later date.