Major works nightmare at Elephant

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Monday 21 September 2009 12.41pm
Hi all,

I am a leaseholder at Perronet House, at Elephant & Castle. We have recently found out that, as a result of the Lakanal fire in Camberwell, our block is one of a number that have been identified by London Fire Brigade (LFB) as requiring immediate works.

The works fall in to 5 main categories:
• New fire doors on all properties
• New or refurbished fire doors in communal areas
• New ceilings in communal areas
• Replacement lateral & rising electrical mains
• Fit smoke & fire detectors to tenanted properties

As a corollary to these works, it is also likely that leaseholder's properties will:
• require rewiring (cost to be born by individual leaseholders) and
• require possible asbestos removal.

We are also looking at having new lifts installed in the new year. In total, we could each end up with a bill of 20k+ for Southwark's works, plus another 10k or so for rewiring and asbestos removal. Maybe more.

Due to the LFB's compulsion on Southwark to complete the works post haste, the Southwark is unable to comply with usual legislation to consult and reply to Leaseholder queries. To that end a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal is meeting shortly on 13th October 2009 to gain dispensation from usual procedure.

Given our various difficulties with Southwark over the years as managing agents of our block in general and that now we are being effectively asked to provide Southwark with a blank cheque in particular, we are sceptical of Southwark's ability to deliver the works on time, within budget or to a decent standard.

Given this unusual situation, do you know what, if any, mechanisms are open to us to:-
a) challenge this process before works get under way
b) challenge costs retrospectively
c) what legal requirements Southwark must adhere to in this process
d) what other avenues are open to us

As I said, events are moving quickly and I fear that without a proper understanding of the process we may find ourselves with a large bill by default.

We do not have a recognised Tenant's Association and I would be interested in hearing from leaseholders in other affected blocks about what they are doing to meet this challenge.

Any assistance gratefully received.


Monday 21 September 2009 2.17pm
Blimey!! SURELY expecting you to cough up for what should have been done years ago by the Council is bang out of order. I guess you have to get a Tenants' Assoc. together double quick. If everyone, but EVERYONE, refuses to pay up, taking the lot of you to Court isnt really going to happen. If you are one random renegade (I should know) you always get clobbered.
Monday 21 September 2009 2.28pm
Yeah, as per Jackie's comments; although the work arguably could have been done years ago, when we challenged this, Southwark officers said that the relevant fire safety legistation only came in in 2006 and that our block was schedualled but this has now been brought forwards.

So I don't think we can wriggle out of it that easily.

We are not arguing that the work shouldn't be done - just how that work is carried out and monitored.

For instance, the new fire doors/front doors: is a cost of 1200 per flat we have been quoted reasonable? Does that cost represent the per unit price for Southwark or some total retail price that Southwark might try and pass on? Would the suppliers not provide a baulk discount? Given that our own searches for fire door prices returned an average price of 250, does the quoted price reflect an 'improvement' rather than a 'repair'? And so on...

The bit that bothers me is that while leaseholders always get clobbered for service charges & major works there is some right to challenge. It seems that in this instance, as I have said, with the application to the LVT on the 13th Oct, these rights are being suspended...

Monday 21 September 2009 6.59pm
Hi Alex

For instance, the new fire doors/front doors: is a cost of 1200 per flat we have been quoted reasonable?

Depends how many doors you're talking about, and whether they are standard or non-standard height/width ... I recently had the internal fire doors replaced in my flat: 4 full-width (but not standard-sized) doors + 1 half-width (but not standard-sized)door was c.470 for the doors, another c.75 for the hinges (the weight of the doors means the hinges need to be of a particular kind and I needed 14 of them), and labour to hang them was c.200 (not all carpenters will take the work because it's quite specialist and it was a full day's work to do). I haven't painted them yet, but, including the handles, my expenditure so far is c.825 and that's not including a front door, which I guess would be another c.200-300. So think you could easily spend 1,000 on an average sized flat in this way. Hope that's helpful.
Monday 21 September 2009 7.57pm
Hi McQueen...

They were talking about 1200 for ONE front door!

Tuesday 22 September 2009 10.38am
oh blimey - I'd read your post as the price per flat for all the doors per flat. but, there are fire doors and fire doors and it could be that the particular needs of a block of flats takes it from domestic to industrial grade? industrial grade fire doors (which are steel with some kind of wood veneer) are A LOT more expensive than domestic grade fire doors (which are wood). The other thing I forgot to mention yesterday is that the weight of a fire door may mean that the door frame needs reinforcement before it can be hung (i.e. extra work).

it's a bit sad that I know so much about fire doors ;)

I guess the thing to do would be to request more detail about the specifications for the works proposed so you can research and then challenge anything genuinely excessive.
Tuesday 22 September 2009 11.35am
Get a residents association together ASAP.

I have a generic Residents' Association constitution that I could send to you. (PM me with your email address and I'll forward it on). You'll probably need to tweak it a bit but it's important to have in order for them to take your committee seriously. And remember to assign the usual chair/ secretary etc - even if these are just in name only and you're doing all the leg work.

Call a meeting/ doorstep your neighbours and get all your efforts consolidated - your only strength to oppose any bullying tactics will be sheer numbers, as Jackie says.

Best of luck! What a horrible situation.

I live in a private block and our freeholder recently tried to get us to install 56K worth of solar lighting which didn't actually light anything in our building but passed energy back to the grid and thereby reduced their electricity rate across their estate. Cheeky or what!?

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