A MAINTENANCE man working on a block of flats in Helensburgh had a gun pulled on him by a squatter and then two flats were gutted by a deliberate fireraising � And that was the final straw for owner Ajay Ahuja who had bought the 10 flats in West Princes Street thinking that Helensburgh was a "lovely area" and a good place to invest in.

He and his partner Hana Mayerova, who own a portfolio of rental properties all over Britain through their company Ahuja Holdings, bought the block of 10 flats at 51 West Princes Street two years ago.

Hana said: "We have purchased this property consisting of 10 flats in 2008, thinking that Helensburgh was a very nice area and it would be good to add to our property portfolio, consisting mainly of properties located in "rough" areas, some properties located in good area.

"But what a surprise! Within days the 10 flats which were purchased as vacant possession, went under attack from vandals and seemed to became the centre of antisocial behaviour. All the flats were being constantly vandalised." She continued: "After repeated securing of the properties and repairs to the flats it would always be back to square one. The repairs and maintenance had been made even more difficult because our property maintenance contractor's vehicles were being vandalised in broad daylight while they were working in the flats.

"So it became impossible to find a builder willing to work on the site, impossible also to find a local letting agency to even become the key holder for these properties.

"During this time there had been almost daily incidents of vandalism and malicious damage to the properties which the police were called to. This would range from windows being broken to proper break ins and vandalism inside the flats. Two vehicles were vandalised.

"One of the flats had been invaded by a squatter who had pulled a gun at one of our maintenance team who unsuspectingly entered the property thinking it was vacant.

"When we managed to find tenants they were being chased away. One of our tenants was even assaulted by invaders." The tale of destruction and terror culminated in April 2008 with a serious fire being set in the building by intruders. This fire completely destroyed two top floor flats and did quite a bit of damage to the building as a whole.

Ajay and Hana began to despair and Ajay said: "The fire incident was the final straw. I had had enough and I wrote to Strathclyde Police, the local police, our MP in England, Argyll and Bute Council, the fire brigade and the Scottish Parliament asking for help . with tackling the vandalism and the antisocial behaviour associated with this address.

"The response was amazing and there is no trouble now, the flats are finished and we have three tenants in place and are able to look for more." Hana said: "We understand what a drain this must have been on local authorities' resources, for example on the local police force who had set up high profile patrols for this area and we would like to say how grateful we are to them for tackling the vandalism and antisocial behaviour in this area. They went out of their way while they do not have unlimited resources.

"The fact that the vandalism was stopped has enabled us to get on with the repair and refurbishment of the whole building and we would like to offer the flats to local people who are looking for accommodation.

"However, what we are finding is that people are 'wary' and aware of the reputation this address had in the past and it is proving difficult to convince people that this place is now safe and that if they took residence there their homes would not get broken into and their possessions stolen and they would not get chased away at night out of their homes by vandals as its been happening in the past. The flats are now extra secure with reinforced steel doors and CCTV in operation." Ajay and Hana would like to especially thank Helensburgh Police, Strathclyde police, Strathclyde Fire and Rescue, Argyll and Bute Council, Helensburgh antisocial behaviour unit, Robert Cowper, community safety co-ordinator and Malcolm Moss MP.

Ajay said: "I am so pleased with the completed flats and with the response we got from the authorities. I would be quite happy to invest in the area again should the opportunity arises." Anyone interested in renting one of the flats at 51 West Princes Street should call Ajay and Hana on 08700669489 to arrange a viewing.