Reply To: Leighton Grove major works


We are facing the exact same issues as you are and the same £28k Major Works bill. So far we have not received adequate answers to our many questions relating to the content of the Major Works estimate.

There are a several Camden owned properties on Leighton Grove, a number of which are of the same maisonette configuration as yours, with 2 separate street entrances and no common areas. Camden admit that “The works that have been scoped were based on an FRA [Fire Risk Assessment] report that we have carried out. Unfortunately your report was based on a property of a similar architype that does have communal areas.”

It is a concern that consultants have been commissioned to undertake Fire Risk Assessments and they clearly did not know what they were assessing. No one has actually studied the building plans, or visited the properties in person and this is borne out by the Fire Risk Assessment document itself, which is a partially filled-in 9 page Excel table, completed, at the very best, on the basis of some exterior photos, or the assistance of Google Street View. In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower tragedy I wonder where accountability lies for such “assessments”.

As you note, there are a lot of provisional sums and only very vague (or no) quantities indicated in the estimates. I have asked for the Major Works estimates to be corrected prior to the works starting on site, but Camden stated “the costs will be firmed up once the Contractors are on-site and where necessary a redetermination of the scope of the works will be undertaken.” This is highly unsatisfactory, no commercial developer would sign up to an open ended deal like this. And as you point out, if the works are invoiced in full at the start of the works then we are likely to be billed far in excess of the actual final costs. Getting the balance refunded could be a lengthy and painful process.

We appreciate that these large tenders are complex, with a number of key stakeholders (the freeholder i.e. Camden, leaseholders, council tenants, etc), but the process and the results of the tender undertaken by Camden are noticeably lacking in credibility and transparency. Camden’s contracts team have clearly not scrutinised the offers, or sought clarification, or justification for the tender sums and are just “going with the flow”. They are leaving it to leaseholders to flag the problems and are denying any accountability. The result is that Leaseholders are being made to pay for overpriced, unnecessary and potentially poor quality work without direct recourse to the appointed contractors.

In an open market scenario where leaseholders (or an association of leaseholders) could arrange and negotiate their own tender for the necessary repairs to individual (or groups of) properties I am confident they could achieve more competitive pricing and almost certainly higher quality works (based on your earlier experiences with Lakehouse) than Camden can achieve. And this is in spite of the huge economies of scale Camden should be able to realise under the framework agreements they have in place.

Camden’s reluctance to address the questions we, and others, have raised before the works go on site makes it look like they intend to steamroller these bills through under the threat of legal action, or the threat of losing the property for breaching the terms of the lease.

The Major Works bills are extremely high for and raising the necessary sum of money through bank financing (or extending a mortgage) based on the extremely poor quality information provided by Camden will be extremely challenging. I believe Camden have a duty to provide accurate property-specific and competitive costings, backed up with detailed bills of quantities, schedules of rates, a detailed construction programme and a set of strong warranties. Based on the feedback we have received to date it looks like Camden are just happy to irresponsibly spend other peoples money.

If we could help we would be pleased to do so, but the feeling of helplessness you get when dealing with Camden is debilitating. Unfortunately, without recourse to a top legal team, I suspect that leaseholders will become the victims of a what is effectively an institutionalised scam.