Major Works to Thorburn Square Surroundings

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Wednesday 7 November 2007 6.14pm
I just moved to the SE1 Thorburn Square surrounding area (Reverdy Road) and am a freeholder. I just received the bill from the council for the major works that were to take place between May and December 2007. The invoice for this "works" has come to 5.5k for my one-bedroom flat however the only thing they actually did was paint the window sills, front door, and gate (this totals 200 for my property according to the contractor's estimate).

I contacted the council and all they can provide me is the estimate that the contractor provided which is generic in nature and does not have any relation to what was or even could be done to my property. Nevertheless, they are asking me to pay this $5.5k bill...gulp! Does anyone else have the same situation? Has anyone seen "actual" invoices from the contractors? Could this just be the case that the contractors are trying to take the council for a ride and are upsetting the freeholders in the area?

Any advice or similar stories are much appreciated.
Thanks.
Wednesday 7 November 2007 6.19pm
Sorry, I meant to say I am a leaseholder not a freeholder. The council is the freeholder.
Wednesday 7 November 2007 7.01pm
Check your lease, they probably cannot charge you at all if you've not been there longer than three years (I live there too and this is what I have been advised).

You should appeal this.

During the run up to the works we were informed that every lease holder was being (they estimated) overcharged and that any delta would be returned on completion of the works. I think that is somewhat immoral & told them so, not that it did any good other than allowing me to get it off my chest!

Good luck with any appeal - let us know how you get on.
Wednesday 7 November 2007 8.22pm
Thanks for your response.

So if the council knows they are overcharging the leaseholders then why haven't they sorted it out before charging us 5.5K for 200 of work?

Interesting that you said I should appeal because when I called the council and they also suggested I appeal and it might go to tribunal! In the meantime they want me to pay the monthly installments. I am not sure I understand why they are not persuing the issue with the "cowboy" contractors because if the leaseholders are being excessively overcharged then the council is paying excessive fees for their properties with rent-paying tenants. It seems like a crazy waste of taxpayer's money!

I checked the lease I adopted when I purchased the house and it didn't say anything about not having to pay if I have been in the property for less than 3 years but it is directed at the previous leaseholder who purchased the property on the Right to Buy scheme.

I am confused. So have you too just starting paying this excessive service charge hoping that after December when the final invoice comes in from the contractor that the council will refund the money? This seems like an issue that needs to be raised higher than the Home Ownership Unit. Like MP level.
Wednesday 7 November 2007 8.52pm
So far as I am aware it is not the contractors who are cowboys - my dealings with them have shown them to be far from.

I am having to pay - more than 3 times what you've been charged.

I bought the flat with complete knowledge of such potential charges but considered the investment worth the risk.
Thursday 8 November 2007 7.43am
Birdie,
Who advised you that you don't have to pay for these works if you have lived in the property for less than three years? Where can I get this information?

Also, how do I make a formal appeal? Is this just a letter to the Southwark Home Ownership Unit or is there a procedure to follow?

Thanks.
Thursday 8 November 2007 9.23am
I'm afraid I don't know how you go about it. I imagine you need to seek legal advice.

It was during the consultative stages, at the tenants meetings that we were advised on who does and diesn't have to pay in terms of length of tenure - it didn't apply to me so I didn't really listen.

Best of luck.
Thursday 8 November 2007 4.53pm
A recent article in Property Week (19/10/07) highlighted a case taken a tenant against Islington - London Borough of Islington v Abdel-Malek (07/08/07). A search on the web will bring up the case details.

To quote “Under the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, a landlord undertaking major works has to provide its tenants with certain information before it proceeds to enter into a contract for such works. It must obtain at least two estimates for the works and, as the Lords Tribunal has made clear, it has to provide tenants with copies of all estimates received or make them all available for inspection. It is not sufficient just to circulate extracts from tenders or to summarise their contents.”

Islington was pursuing the tenant for 10,000 service charges raised against maintenance work carried out. Islington lost the case.

I'm not sure what implication the Landlord and Tenant Act has on a freeholder/leaseholder relationships but there are clear procedures which have to be followed. The Council cannot tell you one price and then charge you 10 times that amount without proper procedure. If this has not been done you should take legal advice……
Thursday 8 November 2007 5.55pm
It's not the Lords Tribunal - it's probably the "Lands Tribunal." You can take the matter yourself to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (which is the first litigation step and deals with disputes over service charges and major works), but you'll either need to do some investigating or you'll need legal advice. You should write to the council before doing anything and get a response in writing.
Thursday 8 November 2007 6.07pm
Dear Acox
Dont panic! Potentially you have another claim depending on how you did your conveyancing. Your solicitor should have done a 'search' as to any major works bills expected outstanding. If they did not then you can have a claim against them for poor practice. If they did and the council said nothing was planned then you might have a claim against the council? If the previous owner concealed any such bills then you may have a claim against them??

Additionally, the bill sounds very excessive so may well be adjusted down.

ps I live in Longley Street - hello!
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