New Cap on Charges
The Department for Communities and Local Government recently announced Florrie's law, capping the amount councils can charge leaseholders for repairs to their homes. Councils and housing associations will be required limited in the 'amount they can charge for future major repair, maintenance, or improvement works when they are wholly or partly funded by the government'. The new cap is £15,000 in any five-year period (£10,000 outside London).
Additionally, councils bidding for next year’s Decent Homes funding will be required to make clear what help is available, including loans and deferred payment options. They will have to offer affordable repayment terms and publish details of how they award contracts for the major works on their websites.
We contacted the Department for Communities and Local Government, who provided the following response.
'The new mandatory directions will not apply to service charges for major works where a local authority has already been awarded Government funding to carry them out, regardless of whether or not the works have commenced. Instead the directions will apply when local authorities and housing associations apply for funding on or after 12 August 2014 from new government programmes.
'At the moment, that means the next round of Decent Homes Backlog funding that the Government, via the Greater London Authority, will be awarding for major works to be carried out in 2015/16. Further details about how this funding will be allocated can be found on the GLA’s website.'
Status: No further follow-up required. This law will not impact leaseholders of Lewisham Homes this year.
Jet-washing: Pros and ConsResidents of both the Tanner's Hill Estate in Deptford / New Cross and the Crossfields Estate in Deptford have separate long-standing queries outstanding with Lewisham Homes over the necessity of jet-washing their brickwork.
In both cases, residents have pointed out that jet-washing can damage the brickwork, leading to more re-pointing than would otherwise be necessary. Both sets of queries have also highlighted the fact that atmospheric soiling is not water soluble. Thus, in order to get the brickwork looking clean and even, quite aggressive washing would be required, increasing the likelihood of damage. One resident described the communications as 'we've decided to jet-wash. Now here's a list of reasons why people might choose to do so'.
On Crossfields Estate, they've also called in the Lewisham Council Conservation Officer, who is also querying these matters.
Status: To date, residents of neither estate have received satisfactory responses.
Independent Adjudicator Finds in Favour of One LeaseholderA leaseholder on the ex-Crusader's Co-op Estate recently heard back from the independent adjudicator on the matter of his stage 3 complaint with Lewisham Homes regarding the major works programme that is being carried out. He raised serious concerns about those works and about the way Lewisham Homes treats its leaseholders in general.
The independent adjudicator found that the leaseholder in question had received contradictory information, late responses, and poor quality communications. She also found that a representative of Lewisham Homes had made a derogatory remark about the leaseholder. The IA's findings included the following: a formal apology from a senior officer a payment of £250 compensation for the 'significant time and trouble, stress and frustration' the leaseholder incurred.
Status: To date, the leaseholder has received neither the apology nor the compensation. The apology was due today; however, as today is a bank holiday, we assume this date has been extended until tomorrow, 26/8/14.
Scope Creep in Major Works ProgrammesOne paragraph in the independent adjudicator's letter referenced above may have positive ramifications for leaseholders across all of Lewisham Homes properties. The following is extracted directly from her letter.
‘Where a landlord proposes to carry out works of repair, maintenance or improvement which would cost an individual service charge payer more than £250, he must, before proceeding, formally consult all those expected to contribute to the cost (under Section 20 of Landlord and Tenant Act 1985). If the landlord fails to carry out the consultation process in the correct form or has not sought and been given a dispensation from the LVT, he will be unable to recover the cost of the works from the leaseholders beyond the statutory limit of £250 per leaseholder.’
Looks like Lewisham Homes may want to pay more attention to these matters in future.
Status: No further follow-up expected at present.