Making a complaint about major works bill with Council

This topic contains 7 replies, has 4 voices, and was last updated by  gailox1 3 months, 1 week ago.

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  • #4331

    MFranklin
    Participant

    Hi,

    Does anyone know the process for this after Leaseholder Services doesn’t answer any questions or make a move to justify the costs of the major works or to reduce the bill?

    Who do you write and complain to? Is it the Housing Complaints team on the Camden Council complaints web page?

    Also, what happens during the period where you do take Camden to a tribunal? If you are not paying a major works bill because you dispute the amount, what would they do during this period? Would they send you notices to take you to a small claims court to recover the amount – or is the matter put on hold until it goes before a tribunal?

    Thanks if anyone knows. Very important to find out and do not have a lease advisory appointment till next Tuesday as that was the soonest. The whole system is of course very bureaucratic and crazy.

    #4332

    mliebenrood
    Participant

    There is a guide to complaining on this site: https://www.leaseholdersforum.org.uk/guides/complaining-effectively/ which suggests using the complaint form accessed via this page: http://www.camden.gov.uk/complaint (click the Make a Complaint button).

    I don’t have experience of using the tribunal so can’t comment on that, but I do have invoices currently in dispute directly with the council and they have put them on hold in the meantime, which means that I am not chased for monies unpaid. Those invoices are for major works which overran and were poorly carried out. I began a dispute in late 2015 and it is ongoing. We have got nowhere for about 18 months and Camden have now transferred it to the complaints department.

    Camden’s usual process when invoices are unpaid is to send standard letters to threaten legal action, although I don’t know how it would escalate from there. Perhaps others on this forum could comment?

    #4333

    MFranklin
    Participant

    Hello Mliebenrood

    Thanks very much for the reply. This is helpful to know what happens. We have put in a request to speak with one of the officers who is in charge of finance in leaseholders department so will see how that goes. The blanket replies via email have not been of any help in resolving things.

    Have you stated your reasons why you refuse to pay the amount they are asking and named a price you think is fair to pay? Are you planning to take them to a tribunal if they don’t reduce the bill? Have they moved to make a new suggested price on the bill?

    #4334

    mliebenrood
    Participant

    I did propose what I thought was a reasonable amount taking into account all the problems, but Camden ignored my proposal in their first response and all subsequent correspondence. There was mention of a possible reduction quite some time ago, without suggesting a figure, but I heard nothing more about it. In my initial complaint I set out all the problems in a long letter. Camden’s response did not respond to all the points I made and was incorrect on a number of points. Since then I have been asking how we might proceed, without getting a straight answer. I’m waiting to see the outcome of this latest stage of the process before deciding what to do next. Never having been in this situation before, it’s not clear to me what the options are and I haven’t yet considered a tribunal.

    #4335

    camdentownie
    Participant

    I complained and was basically given the standard council answer which is that the works complied with all regualations. I was not offered any deduction and incurred legal costs because they ignored my objections and sent it to a debt collector. The council is a huge bully that hires builders on a long contract therefore they have no obligation to do the best job. Why should they, they are getting paid anyway. I know some people have hired lawyers and tried to get something back but many have lost their shirts on this. Next major works bill I am not happy with I will take it to a lawyer. I can’t stand being bullied and talked down to and I actually firmly believe that leaseholders should get together to challenge the actual costs of these things. Our new lift is an accident waiting to happen originally costed at £4,000 and coming in at £6,000, with an overrun of around 5 months. So I assume the Council fined the contractor, they certainly should have, but never passed any kickbacks on to the leaseholders. Keep at it is my advice. The more of us challenge them, the less accidents may happen after shoddy workmanship that we have been bullied into paying for.

    #4340

    gailox1
    Participant

    Yes, after 15 years of putting up with what seem to be extortionate major works (where are the economies of scale?), I concur with much of what is reported above. Complaining by email to leaseholder services gets a very mixed response and usually fails to address the pertinent points. I went to the drop-in session a couple of weeks ago and found that much more useful.

    Challenging costs after the work has been ‘completed’ is a very difficult exercise, not least because Camden (and presumably the sub-contractors) have got your money by then. There are a number of points in the whole process which are open to abuse in the wrong/incompetent hands, and paying in advance (even once the works have started) is one of them. Snagging should be satisfactorily completed before the final installment is paid (common practice in the real world to ensure things get done).

    Other grey areas include the way ‘Indirect Costs'(for Camden staff) is calculated (which must surely encourage some staff to inflate the the need for work to be done in the interests of job security, as the cost of staff is apportioned over the total amount of major works done in the year), and the possibility that Camden’s preferred contractors may not be acting as competitively as they could.

    Camden have, in recent years, clarified the consultation process, but I think the same level of clarity, if not an even higher level, needs to be applied to the complaints procedure, which should be distributed along with any proposal for works and demand for payment. Although, as I have noted above, by the time works have finished it is all very difficult to complain. Probably the best thing to do is to get organised with other leaseholders in your building to have your own survey done with an independent surveyor when the section 20 comes out and before the leaseholders meeting with the contract manager and officers from leaseholder services.

    #4342

    camdentownie
    Participant

    Gallox, how did you hear about it? You had a leaseholders meeting before works? We have never had such a thing. The differences across the boro are striking. I agree, I think rallying the leaseholders, even if I have to take it on, is a way to stop this shoddy and frankly dangerous workmanship. Our new lift shaft is a chimney, it’s not sealed properly and I’m writing it here to make sure it stays written somewhere. I don’t agree that it’s too late, this is bad workmanship and if I could post a picture up here I would.

    #4343

    gailox1
    Participant

    Camdentownie, we had a general meeting of residents before works, as I remember. The works did not proceed, so I don’t know if there would have been a special leaseholders meeting.In the Major Works Guide for Leaseholders (Jan 16) put out by Camden, under ‘Consultation process step by step’ it says that after the Section 20 notices are sent, there is a leasehold meeting to discuss the estimates, attended by the contract manager and officers from leasehold services – and then the section 20 consultation closes after 30 days. This is certainly something we will be holding them to in future.

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