4th January 2016 at 15:50 #2363cchillParticipant
I’m sure I’m not the only one concerned about the cost of major works. How can we be sure that the charges billed to leaseholders will be fair? For example, my flat is small – 468 sq ft one bedroom. I am an artist living on a tight budget, and most improvements to my flat I have done myself to help keep costs down. I really feel a lack of control when I see the many contractors involved – to me it looks like a bonanza for a host of private firms. I also don’t feel comfortable subsidizing works that aren’t of direct benefit to my property. If I choose to sell or need to sell, the major works costs could prove a real problem in the eyes of a buyer. I understand from the latest meeting that it is being discussed whether or not the costs could be proportionate to the size of the property. I’m not sure if this means that if you have a larger flat, you pay more? I can’t help but feel the financial burden is too heavy on the leaseholders. I will be at the next meeting at Camden Town Hall on the 19th of January at 6.45pm. Hoping to speak to others who may be less pessimistic/worried about this than I am. I understand the cap is £15,000, but this is a huge amount of money. Does Camden Council understand that this is far too much to ask of leaseholders?8th February 2016 at 11:41 #2451GRivoltaParticipant
I am in the same situation, only owner of a 46 sq/m flat working as game artist. I have been billed last month for over 3000£ for works that had been carried out before I bought my flat (which I am investigating in, as my property is never listed in the breakdown they sent me), regarding the Heating system, and now I just received a notice for more planned works regarding the heating?!?! How I will be able to afford that?
Did you go to the meeting? how did that go?
Giulia8th February 2016 at 12:34 #2453cchillParticipant
Glad to hear from you – and brilliant you are a games artist.
But yes, the costs for works should be proportioned according to square footage. I think very important you write direct to the Camden Council Leaseholders section. The two problems you mention are both extremely serious – I think the £3000 for works carried out before you bought your flat should be paid by the previous owner or you at least should have been told. I’m hoping your agent who sold you the flat can advise you. As for more planned works on the heating system, I would enclose a copy of your bill from recent works on heating and send that with your letter to Camden Council Leaseholders section. They sent me a reasonable and fair explanation of works to come – I think the wording of their documents meant for general use covering so many different cases can be confusing and even a bit alarming. They are looking at budgets now and now is the time to address the problems in a letter with documents if you can get copies made.
I am a little less worried now because so many leaseholders are writing letters and concerned – for instance, if I need to sell my flat, I absolutely would need to inform the next potential owner of the works to come. The question marks over the potential costs could make my flat unsaleable. So we have many concerns on many levels.
On the bright side, the previous owner of my flat was a gaming expert who was one of the innovators of animated advertising on the internet. His name is Anthony Rushton and although I never met him I looked him up on Google. It really does look like a field with fantastic potential. So your long-term future as a gaming artist looks truly great.
So hang in there, and try and reason with the previous owner/agent and the Council. It’s so important you stand up for your rights – you will be listened to here and together we will make sure all our concerns are heard. Try and get your individual case heard because the general letters written for a multitude of cases don’t always communicate all that well with the individual.
I didn’t go to the meeting because I got a letter which reassured me about how the works would be concentrating on areas that affect me and not general maintenance and so on for all blocks. Let me know how things go.15th February 2016 at 23:28 #2540Disillusioned Leaseholder Cash CowParticipant
When looking through the related paperwork when I purchased my flat, I noticed an indication of the £3000 heating work and television system work on the horizon. Neither the agent or the seller offered up this information, I was lucky to spot it. This was three years ago. I purchased with a £4000 retainer against these invoices and 3 years later they have been issued. It makes it even more difficult when such time passes but for sure the seller would have been aware of this work on the horizon, but whether they had any legal obligation to tell you I do not know. Good luck with it.
On a related issue, has the capping of the current work at £15,000 been confirmed by Camden? I’ve not had anything official and nothing since a speculative estimate of nearer £20,000!
Marven16th February 2016 at 11:56 #2541larson1012001Participant
I think you will find that a seller does have a legal obligation to disclose any such up and coming works that they are aware of, particularly if they are for a large sum of money.
The council would be able to advise of correspondence sent to the previous leaseholder of such advice, and if you can prove this, then you would have a decent case against them.
Ideally your solicitor should also have contacted the council at time of purchase to ask if there were any outstanding service charges, and can ask for a schedule of proposed works.
I would suggest contacting the solicitor you used to purchase the property for ‘official’ legal advice, but I would certainly make a point of investigating this as it could well be in your favour.16th February 2016 at 19:44 #2542RossybParticipant
The £3000 outstanding amount should have been discovered by your solicitor when they did their searches for your purchase.
In a recent case I heard about the purchaser pursued the solicitor for the amount as it was their error. In the case in question the amount was £17K and the solicitor had to cough the lot.
I agree about the major works. They seem to come out of nowhere with no thought for the ability of the leaseholder’s ability to pay. I am also an artist (must be something in the NW6 air) and had no way of paying the £17K they were threatening for the EWI works.
We did fight it though and won with Camden cancelling the works which totally unneeded.
We all need to remember that Camden makes a per-centage commission on all works and are incentivised to spend as much as possible. Its a bloody scandal made even worse by the preferred contrator/partner system where there is no need to even have competitive bids. The sooner we all organise to take over the management of our properties the better.16th February 2016 at 19:53 #2543Peter WrightParticipant
Application of the £15,000 has not been confirmed because the government has not yet accepted the list of schemes to which Camden proposed to appply the funding.The ball is with central government.29th February 2016 at 00:45 #2574Peter WrightParticipant
Major Works are re-charged according to the provisions in the lease. Old leases apportion by rateable values but that system was abolished in 1990, so there has been no way of updating the values since then. Instead, newer leases use square footage, or allow Camden to choose a method. The main issue is; when in doubt, check the lease.
Peter Wright29th February 2016 at 14:42 #2575DisneykParticipant
My service charge is normally distributed by rateable values (as there have been no repairs in years this has not been an issue) as suggested by Peter above. However, when one looks closer at the fourth Schedule of my lease that explains how the service charge is calculated and distributed it shows that there are in fact 3 ways that the service charge can be distributed listed as 4.1, 4.2 and 4.3.
4.1 suggests division by rateable values but,
4.2 states “…a fair and reasonable proportion of the costs thereof attributable to the Premises such proportion to be determined by the Landlord’s Finance Officer whose decision shall be final and binding.”
4.3 states “such other method as the Landlord shall specify acting fairly and reasonably in the circumstances…”
This clause means that the service charge can be distributed by any method that is considered fair but that it is up to the Landlord. I have questioned the distribution of the service charge in my case and was informed that the Landlord would not vary the method. I think that this is unfair and I will be contesting my invoice if this remains the case.
In my case I have already replaced (and paid for) new windows in my flat but the Landlord still expects me to pay half of the cost of replacing the windows of the other flat. I think it will be easy to argue that charging me for the other flats windows when they made no contribution to mine should be an easy task and I think it is horrific that the Council seem to think that I am subsidising the building.
Depending on the logic in the particular case this may not be easy to argue as many people have previously taken this issue to the LVT and the LVT normally concludes that it is fair to use the historic method. There is clearly room for argument though if there is flexibility in the lease as there is in mine.29th February 2016 at 15:12 #2576DisneykParticipant
With regard to the application of the £15000 cap and what grant money Camden has received Peter Wright suggests above that the ball is with Central Government. Fiona McKenzie asked a very useful question to the GLA via the Freedom of Information act. The results can be found here https://www.whatdotheyknow.com/request/camden_projects_funded_by_the_de and I have copied some of it below.
“Camden’s submission for the 2015-16 Decent Homes Backlog Fund provided for a total of 1559 dwellings to be made decent at a total cost of £26,299,627. The funding was approved on 5th January 2015
The GLA does not collect information on individual projects for the Decent Homes Backlog Fund.
The Decent Homes grant funding agreement requires local authorities to complete and submit an Annual Statement of Grant Usage to account for the funding received during the previous financial year, this must be accompanied by an independent report prepared by a reporting accountant.
In the 2012-15 Decent Homes Programme, funding was allocated by the Homes and Communities Agency. Allocations for the London Borough of Camden were as follows
Year Allocation Homes Made Decent
2012-13 £20M 2114
2013-14 £10M 885
2014-15 £15M 1302
Total £45M 4301
It is thus up to Camden to allocate the funds.
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