6th December 2018 at 18:20 #5028
I was hoping that there might be some other leaseholders in Leighton Grove or nearby streets that are in a similar position to me and would like to work together to deal with a very large major works bill.
We received a £21k bill nearly two years ago and have been querying it since then with no success. I have had a lot of contact with Camden and meetings with Camden employees, including one with Camden’s Director of Property Management, Gavin Haynes.
I have written to my Councillor, Meric Apak, multiple times and to my MP, Keir Starmer. Both responded but neither has been able to help.
After the best part of two years, the extortionate bill jumped up from £21k to £28k. The £28k bill breaks down like this:
• £8.4k is provisional charges (ie. for completely unspecified work)
• £2.5k is Fire Risk Assessment work to communal areas of the building, but those areas don’t exist, there are no communal areas in the building
• £2.5k is replacing a backdoor that doesn’t exist and asbestos checks that were recently carried out
• £5.2k is replacing our new windows
• £3.4k is supervision, overheads, indirect costs (ie. profits).
• That leaves only £6k of specified works that could actually be carried out.
Camden never engaged in consultation. We only received the updated bill when we requested a copy. It came on the last day of the consultation period.
Camden now say that they have taken the queries on board and they are pushing ahead with works and the £28k bill will be payable as soon as work starts.
I’m also very concerned about the quality of the works, here’s why –
Several years ago I lived nearby on Caversham Road. I was a leaseholder there too. I got a major works bill for £4.2k for works carried out by a company called Lakehouse. The works took many months to complete. It was 2011. The quality of the work was terrible. Much of the work was painting – they just painted over old paint, dirt and moss. The paint fell off. All the ground floor communal areas were trashed by workmen and never repaired. Scaffolding blocked out all the windows for nearly a year. Nobody helped, not our councillor Meric Apak, no one at the council. They said we could take them to the Leaseholder Valuation Tribunal and then hired solicitors who threatened substantial legal costs if we proceeded. For a bill of £4.2k it didn’t seem worth it.
Camden sent another bill for the same work six years on, in 2017, long after I had moved out of Caversham Road. It was another £500 for unspecified additional costs from the same work by Lakehouse on Caversham Road which had finished years earlier. I made many objections. Eventually a Camden employee came to see me, it was his last week at work, he said he was leaving the Council and as a favour he would put it in writing that they’d write off the latest bill for £500. After that it took 5 months during which time Camden’s solicitors made many threats before they did in fact write off the extra £500. The same employee who offered to write off the bill told me that Camden was suing Lakehouse for terrible work they had done. He thought the whole thing was ridiculous and laughed throughout the meeting. I have no idea what happened to Camden’s claim against Lakehouse.
However, since then multiple Camden employees have told me that legal action was taken against Lakehouse and that incredibly Lakehouse are still an approved supplier of these services to Camden and they are bidding on the work on my home on Leighton Grove.
So I am facing a £28k bill for work that is largely unspecified or literally cannot happen plus the profits on the unspecified / impossible work. And the contract for the work might well be given to the company that previously carried out work so badly that Camden say they took legal action against them.
If anyone is in a similar position and has similar concerns please let me know here. Maybe we can share the costs of legal representation at the LVT if all the other options are exhausted.7th December 2018 at 10:15 #5032
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.7th December 2018 at 11:54 #5038
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Please see above reply for the Topic post Leighton Grove Major Works7th December 2018 at 16:54 #5039
Millman Street/Place leaseholders face these same issues. Several threads under this Major Works-Estmates have the same difficulties. How can we co-ordinate?
Bill7th December 2018 at 19:07 #5040
hi JHLondon & bill Murray – I sent you each a message with my details. Thanks T7th December 2018 at 19:07 #5041
hi JHLondon & bill Murray – I sent you each a message with my details. Thanks T9th December 2018 at 18:18 #5042
Sorry, but you will need to spend some money to fight on Leighton Grove. Find out which properties were covered by the archetype survey, and which are in the contract with you. Then set up a Recognised Tenants Association (RTA) of leaseholders (see https://www.camden.gov.uk/ccm/content/housing/council-tenants-and-leaseholders/homeownership/getting-involved/) with whom you can make common cause. (Try and keep the tenants on board too throughout as it will make life easier). Hire a surveyor to comment on what Camden proposes using RTA powers; you can access one through the Leasehold Advisory Service site (lease-advice.org) and you could try advice from Tower Blocks UK, as they deal with fire issues and may be able to suggest one interested in that area.
Millman Street is, as far as I know, a heating system and so whilst an RTA is likely to be helpful, will need different advice.
Peter Wright23rd January 2019 at 19:17 #5078
I got in touch with the Leaseholder Knowledge Partnership, they introduced me to a solicitor with a good track record, who introduced me to a surveyor with a good track record.
I just came back from a depressing ‘meet the contractors’ session. They start work in one month at which point the bill becomes due.
I have a scheduled meeting at my property with two people from Camden tomorrow to see if we can make any progress in person on site. Assuming that goes the same as previous interactions, we’ll be pushing ahead with the survey and then challenging the bill with the help of the solicitor.
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