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Council charges for leaseholders

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Friday 13 February 2004 12.53pm
Flipper
be careful about installing your own double glazing if the council have any intentions about fitting there own.
round on my estate they say they will still charge even if you have new windows of your own and dont want others fitted.
i moved here 2 1/2 years ago and they said they had no work planned for two years. didn't dream that they did for 2 1/2 years
never trust councils, not known a good one yet.
can see a few going on the market round here. who has that sort of money to throw around. bet there crap too normally are
Friday 13 February 2004 1.39pm
Not sure if this is helpful or annoying, but as a leaseholder in Falcon Point I, along with all the residents, had my windows inspected and fixed at no cost at all. Somebody's pulling a scam here.
Friday 13 February 2004 5.35pm
Martyn

Perhaps this is obvous but if you start to discuss your situation with the Council and they start making statements as to what the costs relate to, I do not know what other Forum members think, but I would note down in your diary precisely what they say and at the appropriate moment I would confirm every thing back to the Council, quoting dates of conversations etc. Sadly in view of the importance of the issue, I would not rely on just putting a letter to the Council in the post but with important letters I either deliver them and get them signed for or post and fax them and so get a print out that the fax has been received.

It is not a good idea to start winding up Council officers because you want their co-operation at this stage so that they tell you information. Get on the wrong side of Council officers and they can be obstructive just for the sake of it.

What you need to be doing first is getting your case, your "ammunition" together, following the advice given in the listings above. Once you know exactly where you stand in legal terms then you can approach the Council with a carefully worded letter.

I may not have a leasehold flat but I have had a lot of to do with Council officers at Southwark and elsewhere and although some may successfully adopt alternative tactics, I do not go on the "attack" until I have a very good case put together and have secured all the information I can.

I belive United House have been appointed to do the work on your estate. Councils provide lucrative contracts for contractors especially a Council like Southwark whose financial controls are perhaps not as robust as other Councils. It would be interesting to establish who drew up the schedule of works for your estate. Do your windows need to be replaced. Most Council specifications work on a 20 - 30 plus life.

As I do not know about leases, I wonder if you could get your windows excluded from the contract. Would it be logistically possible to deal with your window repairs/ replacements at some future date at your own costs?

Mellin

Friday 13 February 2004 5.50pm
Mellin
the windows will be charged for even if I had new ones done myself, several residents have already been told this. it was featured in the South London press just before christmas.
They say they need to replace the windows because they are aluminium and pvc is cheaper to maintain.
not that there has been any maintainance to them so far.
I am trying to stay friendly with the council guys but the one this morning was just to rude.
I have not spoken to one person there who knows what provisions will be available to someone who cannot pay.
i will be going down to citizens advice first thing monday. then find a solicitor if i can afford to.
Friday 13 February 2004 6.27pm
I'm very new as a leaseholder so I'm not sure about all of this, but the advice above seems spot on. In addition, you could check out your 'section 125' notice if its still in force, you may not have to pay for the windows at all - long shot I guess. Also I understand (I hope correctly but do check this out eg. with LEASE) that when you are given the notice of the works, you have the right to challenge the cost and get it lowered if it is unreasonable. And it certainly seems unreasonable to me, unless there are special circumstances. Windows in my block are costing 4,000 for 3-bedroomed flats! That includes the scaffolding. Good luck and dont get downhearted - council procedures can be very hard work and the last thing you need at a difficult time in your life, but dont give up, we're all with you! Let us know how you get on.
Friday 13 February 2004 6.30pm
Martyn

Have a look at these links. Don't spend legal fees until you have first exhausted free advice and you know which questions to concentrate on when you do go and see a solicitor. Have you contacted the Leaseholders Advice people mentioned earlier in this listing?

http://www.probonogroup.org.uk/

http://www.lawcentres.org.uk/

Mellin
Tuesday 17 February 2004 1.42pm
Well, you're not alone. Southwark are doing external decorations to my estate (Newington, SE17) soon and are charging about 3.5K for a one-bed flat. I've been a Southwark leaseholder for about 4 years now and have yet to pay a single major works (Section 20) invoice. I don't know what all the other neighbourhood offices are like, but at West Walworth at least, they have failed each time to follow the consultation procedure that is specified in the relevant legislation (Landlord & Tenant Act 1985, as amended 1987, although any works that have started consultation from Oct 31 2003 are now under the Commonhold laws - 2002.).

To put it simply, the Council needed to give you a Section 20 notice, detailing the work they proposed to do, who (which contractor) they were choosing to do it, and how much it was likely to cost you, and they had to allow one month for you to comment. All well and good, but they also were required to provide a copy of the specification of the works, and copies of the tender documents received from all the contractors. In my case, they didn't do that, and when I went to the Neighbourhood Housing Office, they refused to let me have a copy. Hence I'm not paying a penny, and have told them to take me to County Court. 2 years later, they still haven't.

Under the new Commonhold rules, the requirements for consultation are even more onerous on the Council :-) They have to give you a series of notices, not just one. LEASE (mentioned earlier in this thread) can give you excellent advice about all of this - I found it best to email them specifics, rather than try to get through on the phone, though.

Also, there is an organisation called SLA 2000 (Southwark Leaseholders Association) which was formed from the merging of a couple of different associations before that, one called LSA (Remind you of Monty Python?). Simon Hughes MP was quite heavily involved in all of this sort of thing a few years back, not so sure if he's still into it. Give him an email, anyway. SLA2000 don't have a web presence, but I've been to a few of thier meetings. The hard part is getting in touch with them - the only was is a postal address somewhere in Rotherhite - sorry I don't have it with me at the moment. They do go along to the Leaseholder Council meetings at the Town Hall, so if you can get someone at Southwark Council to let you know when the next one is, you could go along.

Anyway, SLA2000 seem to be better at general issues (they have got a sliding scale and a cap on management fees put in place) and lobbying for better leaseholder administration rather than dealing with individual cases.

Finally, there are about 10-12000 leaseholders in Southwark, and the Council are determined to keep them quiet on a divide and rule strategy. They won't tell you who else are leaseholders on your estate, and prevent SLA2000 from knowing either, hence the low awareness. Good luck with it, and keep us informed on how it goes.

Wow - long first post! Been lurking for a couple of years, though.



Post edited (17 Feb 04 13:43)
Tuesday 17 February 2004 1.54pm
Just to comment on a couple of other points in this thread:

1. If you are a leaseholder, and replace your own windows, you will will have to cough up if the council replace the windows in your block. Their argument is that they are only required to charge by the block, not by the flat, so you get lumped in with everyone else in your building. If it's any consolation, until recently you were lumped in with the enitre estate, and not too long ago, the enitre neighbouhood. We had the situation where leaseholders in lo-rise units were paying for upkeep on lifts, when ther were no lifts on thier enitre estate!

2. There is a Leasehold Management Unit, but again, they are pretty clueless. Never phone them - always write. This has dual advantages of a permanent record of your dealings with them, and the possibility that Clueless Joe who gets your letter may pass it to a manage with half an idea. But don't hold your breath :-) Also, you may want to send it registered, based on the whole post in SE1 issue. A couple of quid is not much when you may be saving 9K in bills.

3. I have heard of people who got stung for major works bills of 26K. Ouch. And the majority of leaseholders are former Council Tenants who exercised their right-to-buy i.e. not exactly high income earners. One retired leaseholder couple who live near me still pay a sum equivalent to their old council rent into a separate bank account to save up for these sorts of bills. Also, these bills can happen pretty regularly - you are likely to be averaging about 2.5K a year.

4. There are a variety of repayment schemes available from Southwark. You can pay interest free over 12 months, nominal interest over 36 months or at near-commercial rates over 60 months.

Maybe we should set up a forum for leaseholders in Southwark?
Tuesday 17 February 2004 3.45pm
A leaseholder forum would be a great idea. I'm about to take that plunge and it seems like a minefield. It'd be great to have somewhere to refer to and where we can pool our experience and knowledge.

You think we should try to set something up ?
Tuesday 17 February 2004 8.04pm
James516 -

what a useful first post! - dont lurk so long next time!

I have all this to get to grips with soon - been lucky so far. Thanks for your helpful information.
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