Monday, 25 August 2014

Second Regular Update

09:39 Posted by British by Choice , , , , No comments

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 Cons

Residents 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 Leaseholder

A 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 Programmes

One 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.

Thursday, 14 August 2014

When Your Home Makes You Sick

10:46 Posted by British by Choice , , , No comments
From: S (leaseholder on Tanner's Hill Estate)
Date: 14 August 2014
To: Environmental Health — Residential, Lewisham Council

Hi,

I live on the Tanner's Hill Estate in Deptford / New Cross. Our estate has been undergoing an extensive major works programme since January. One of the conditions of this work is that the workmen clean up after themselves each day. They have repeatedly failed to do so, despite numerous complaints from residents.

On 14 August 2014 they began brickwork re-pointing on my block. This involves gouging out 50 mm of mortar, covering the whole neighbourhood in a thick blanket of mortar dust, brick dust, as well as the dust, grime, and crap that has accumulated over the 45 years the building has been standing.

For the first week of this work, no clean-up was done whatsoever. My neighbour and I wrote to Lewisham Homes to lodge an official complaint. We wrote 9 times over a 12-day period before they decided to treat our complaint as a complaint. Their eventual response was that the workmen would clean up, but I should keep all my windows closed from 7:00 to 19:00 every day for the six weeks the work was expected to take (in spite of the heat wave).

At one point they suggested that they would only clean up the properties they had actually been working on each day. So, if they worked on the property directly above mine, the dust and grime that covered my garden and came in my windows and around the edges of my windows was not their problem.

During this time I suffered an allergic reaction so severe I had to get an emergency referral to the dermatologist. The only treatment that would touch my allergies was a course of steroids the GP simply refuses to prescribe due to potential side effects. I’m not suggesting that the works were the initial cause of my allergy attack, but the dermatologist agreed that, at a minimum, they certainly exacerbated my symptoms.

Since the 5th of August, I note that the workmen have faithfully cleaned up my property daily. However, the same does not seem to hold true for my neighbours. My next door neighbour wrote yesterday to complain that her property was again left covered in a thick blanket of dirt, dust, grime. I wonder how many other properties haven’t been cleaned up regularly, and how long it will be before mine gets accidentally missed again.

 The dermatologist prescribed only a five-day course of steroids, as it is dangerous to stay on them for longer. I worry that it won’t be enough.

I ask you to look into this situation as a matter of urgency, and thank you for your attentions in this matter.

Regards,
S


____________

From: M (Team Leader, Environmental Health — Residential, Lewisham Council)
Date: 14 August 2014
To:  S (leaseholder on Tanner's Hill Estate)

Madam,

This matter is for Lewisham Homes not Environmental Health Residential, please contact them.

Regards,
M



____________

From: S (leaseholder on Tanner's Hill Estate)
Date: 14 August 2014
To: Environmental Health — Residential, Lewisham Council

Hi Mike,

Had you bothered to read my message, you'd see that I have contacted Lewisham Homes repeatedly, to no avail. Your department is called Environmental Health Residential within the London Borough of Lewisham. If the environmental health of residents within the London Borough of Lewisham is not within your remit, then I seriously question what the purpose of your team actually is.

Furthermore, beginning your message with 'Madam' is rude. It has the ring of 'not my job', which again I question. If this is somehow legitimately not within the domain of your department, then you could still do me the courtesy as a taxpayer and resident and fellow human being of beginning your message with 'Hi S', 'Dear Ms S', or at the very least, 'Dear Madam'.

Again I point out that I am having environmental health problems in my residence in the London a Borough of Lewisham. To whom can I address these concerns if not the Environmental Health Residential within the London Borough of Lewisham?

Regards,
S
 


____________

From: M (Team Leader, Environmental Health — Residential, Lewisham Council)
Date: 14 August 2014
To:  S (leaseholder on Tanner's Hill Estate)

Dear Ms S

apologies if you found my reply 'rude'. Environmental Health Residential is responsible for disrepair to accommodation occupied by private tenants. Any building/land etc owned by Lewisham Homes is their responsibility. There are other departments (previously under the Environmental Health umbrella) that are responsible for noise/dust and nuisance etc (known as Environmental Enforcement) and they are on 0208 314 217.

I would advise you try them but please note no one council department can take any action against another.

regards
M

Wednesday, 13 August 2014

Scope Creep in the Major Works Programme

14:54 Posted by British by Choice , , , No comments
Looks like the leaseholders may finally be making progress with Lewisham Homes management.


__________

From: S (Leaseholder on Tanner's Hill)
Date: 4 August 2014
To: 4 senior managers at Lewisham Homes
CC: Other leaseholders in same block

Hi C, M, E, and A,

With regards to the original statement of work, we have repeatedly been told (by Lewsham Homes managers) that these SoWs represent the worst case scenario. Any work can be done so long as it is within the bounds of the SoW provided at the onset of works.

The SoW said you were going to 'replace' pigeon netting that had never in fact existed?
—Don't worry, it was only an estimate; we'll never be charged for work that doesn't need doing. 
You miscounted the doors in the block?
—Don't worry, it was only an estimate; we'll never be charged for doors that don't exist. 
The same item was quoted twice on the SoW?
—Don't worry, it was only an estimate; we'll never be charged for work that doesn't happen. 

We have always been told that anything on the SoW was fair game — so long as it overstated the work, everything was good.

Conversely, this implies that should any work EXCEED the stated allowance, residents would be consulted before work began and a new SoW issued.

Today I spoke to Mitie reps on site. I learned that not only is this brick re-pointing work on my block going significantly deeper than planned (i.e. 50 mm versus 20 mm), there's also significantly more of it. The original statement of work calls for 30 square metres of brick re-pointing (items 8.2.0, 8.2.0 again, 8.19.0, and 8.20.0).

The sum total allotted for this work is £921.78. That averages out to £30.73 per square metre. As there are 25 units in the block this equates to £36.87 per leaseholder on the block for brickwork re-pointing. As per Mitie, at some point in the past few weeks they were instructed to change this plan, and re-point the entire block. This amounts to approximately 2,000 square metres instead of the originally proposed 30.

Using the average figure shown above, the new cost would be £61,452. This equates to a charge of £2,458.08 per leaseholder for brickwork re-pointing — an increase of £2,421.21 per leaseholder. However, recall that the original SoW called for the re-pointing to go only 20 mm deep, whereas they are in fact having to 50 mm deep. This extra depth is creating extra work for the Mitie team, and making each square metre take longer. One assumes therefore that additional charges will be incurred as a result.

Please explain to me how it is that you're able to undertake expensive additional works in direct contradiction to the statement of work you provided at the outset of the programme.

Thank you.


__________

From: S (Leaseholder on Tanner's Hill)
Date: 6 August 2014
To: 4 senior managers at Lewisham Homes
CC: Other leaseholders in same block

When can I expect a response? If you're going to spend an extra £2,500 of my money without consulting me, I expect a swift response to justify why you did so.


__________

From: S (Leaseholder on Tanner's Hill)
Date: 7 August 2014
To: 4 senior managers at Lewisham Homes
CC: Other leaseholders in same block

I note that three days have passed since I first queried this unapproved extra spend of more than £60,000. That is £2,500 of my own personal money you have spent without consulting me. Please explain.


__________

From: S (Leaseholder on Tanner's Hill)
Date: 8 August 2014
To: A (Lewisham Homes)
CC: Other leaseholders in same block; lhleaseholders@gmail.com

I find your lack of concern for your customers in this matter incredibly disrespectful. Please note I will now send this query to as many media outlets as I can find contact details for.


__________

From: A (Lewisham Homes)
Date: 8 August 2014
To: S (Leaseholder on Tanner's Hill), J (Lewisham Homes)
CC: Other leaseholders in same block; lhleaseholders@gmail.com

I am very sorry no one has responded to you. I have now personally allocated your case to J, who will contact you today and bring the matter to a resolution.

Can I suggest you address all future correspondence to J to avoid any confusion with multiple addresses. If you have further problems, feel free to contact me again.

My apologies.


__________

From: S (Leaseholder on Tanner's Hill)
Sent: 8 August 2014
To: A (Lewisham Homes)
CC: Other leaseholders in same block; lhleaseholders@gmail.com

Thank you for responding. Is there a way I can tell to whom my correspondence should be addressed in any given case? I have found that I frequently make the wrong guess, as I find your job titles confusing. Perhaps they make sense to an industry insider, but I find them inscrutable.

I have taken to addressing all my correspondence to all managers who I think might be related to my query / request. From my perspective this is frustrating, as it generally means NOBODY responds. No doubt it's also annoying for the individuals receiving so many messages from angry residents, particularly if those messages have been sent to the wrong manager.

Thank you.


__________

From: J (Lewisham Homes)
Date: 8 August 2014
To: S (Leaseholder on Tanner's Hill)
CC: Other leaseholders in same block; lhleaseholders@gmail.com 

Hello S,




As you know from A’s e mail he has asked me to contact you today to try and resolve the outstanding issues or at the very least understand them. I have tried to find a telephone number to contact you on but have been unable to find one.


I’ll be here for another hour or alternatively I can call you Monday to discuss how we make progress on the outstanding matters you’ve raised.

In the meantime as A has said, please address any issues you may have in the first instance to me and then I will ensure you receive a response.

If I don’t hear from you today have a good weekend and I hope to talk to you on Monday.


__________

From: S (Leaseholder on Tanner's Hill)
Sent: 8 August 2014
To: J (Lewisham Homes)
CC: Other leaseholders in same block; lhleaseholders@gmail.com 

Thank you. I appreciate you stepping up so swiftly. Thanks for the offer of a call. I'd greatly prefer to resolve this in writing, though.

 If you scroll all the way down to the bottom of the mail, you'll find the details of my query. The rest of the thread is just me repeatedly asking why nobody is responding.

Thanks again.


__________

From: J (Lewisham Homes)
Date: 8 August 2014
To: S (Leaseholder on Tanner's Hill)
CC: Other leaseholders in same block; lhleaseholders@gmail.com

I’ve read through the e mail and will seek clarity on the issue regarding the original statement of works. C is away until Tuesday and I have put a meeting in his diary to discuss this and other matters that A and I picked up on our walkabout at Tanners Hill this morning.

Although I may not be able to provide you with a comprehensive answer on Tuesday I will provide you with an update on what I have asked C to do and by when.

Please let me know if you have any further issues.


__________

From: S (Leaseholder on Tanner's Hill)
Sent: 8 August 2014
To: J (Lewisham Homes)
CC: Other leaseholders in same block; lhleaseholders@gmail.com 

Thank you. I would appreciate that.


__________

From: J (Lewisham Homes)
Date: 12 August 2014
To: S (Leaseholder on Tanner's Hill)
CC: Other leaseholders in same block; lhleaseholders@gmail.com 

I have met with C (Lewisham Homes) and as promised I am providing an update of what was discussed. I have asked for the following to be done:
  1. Understand how the additional costs have arisen and what the sign off process for this is. This will mean discussions with our consultants and I will report back further when I get a full explanation of how they have occurred.
  2. Clarification on what we are doing to hold Mitie to account about clearing up the site at the end of each day.
  3. Have these issues raised as a Stage 1 complaint.

I will be meeting with the director from Mitie to talk through these and other issues raised for Tanners Hill and will incorporate an update in your complaint response. If he is unavailable to meet before the complaint response is due then I will follow up the main issue of cost with an update on the other matters raised.

Thank you for your on-going patience in this matter, I will make sure that you are kept up to date as and when we receive information.


__________

From: S (Leaseholder on Tanner's Hill)
Sent: 13 August 2014
To: J (Lewisham Homes)
CC: Other leaseholders in same block; lhleaseholders@gmail.com

Thanks again for your diligence in this matter. Based on conversations I've had with leaseholders around the borough this week I can see you've had a very busy week!

Has there been any further progress on this? Specifically, has a formal stage 1 complaint been raised? I haven't received a new reference number.

Thank you.

__________

From: O (Leaseholder on Tanner's Hill)
Sent: 13 August 2014
To: J (Lewisham Homes)
CC: Other leaseholders in same block; lhleaseholders@gmail.com

Saturday, 9 August 2014

First Regular Update

Published: 9/8/14
Updated: 25/8/14

___________________________

Customer Satisfaction Survey

MEL Research is conducting a customer satisfaction survey on behalf of Lewisham Homes. Survey invitations were apparently sent to all current leaseholders; however, it seems their database was seriously out of date.

If you haven't received an invitation, please contact Gareth Mostyn at LH and have him update your details in the database. You'll also need to reach out to Jack Harper at MEL Research so somebody on his team can send you an invitation before the survey closes.

Status: The survey remained open as of Friday (7/8/14), although it is unclear how much longer it will remain so.
Update (25/8/14): Unclear whether the survey remains open. Results have not yet been published.

Disappointing Unexpected Delays

Leaseholders on the ex-Crusaders' Co-op Estate were due to have their leaseholder sign-off this week, at the end of their much-delayed major works programme. The sign-off meeting had previously been postponed three times (by Lewisham Homes), and it was hoped that this fourth scheduled meeting would take place as planned.

The day before the meeting was due to take place, one leaseholder discovered that the LH manager who arranged the meeting was on annual leave for two weeks, not returning until the 18th of August. He also noted that several of the agreed items of work remained outstanding at that time.  

Status: The meeting did not take place, and management of LH have yet to provide an explanation.
Update (25/8/14): The meeting has been rescheduled for 29/8/14. Several items of work remain to be completed before the meeting can take place.

When is a Complaint Not a Complaint?

Leaseholders on Tanner's Hill Estate sent a series of nine written complaints on a single issue over a 12-day period beginning on 18 July 2014. The messages were clearly marked as complaints and were sent to the complaints team at Lewisham Homes.

It wasn't until the ninth message in the series that LH logged the matter as an official complaint. As such, they started the clock from 31 July 2014. Their complaints policy gives them 10 working days to resolve the matter (14 August 2014).  

Status: To date this complaint remains open. 
Update (25/8/14): Residents received an official response on1/8/14. On 5/8/14 residents requested an additional item be completed before the complaint be marked as closed. Lewisham Homes have not responded to this request. Additionally, the problem which led to the complaint in the first place has recurred at least once.

Whose Job is it Anyway?

Leaseholders on Crossfields Estate have queried the ownership of sewage pipes that run from their buildings to the main sewer. Their SoW includes for pipe repair (at significant costs, naturally), and leaseholders are also charged for on-going maintenance to road drains outside their buildings in their yearly service charges. In October 2011, Thames Water took on ownership of all private pipes, sewers and drains. Sewer pipes to blocks of flats are their responsibility to maintain.

At Crossfields there is a combined sewer system so Thames Water are also responsible for the surface water drains in the estate's roads and forecourts. Leaseholders have requested to see proof of whether Lewisham Homes has chosen to 'adopt' the drains and pipes from Thames Water. If they have, this means they have chosen (without consultation) to subsidise a major private corporation in their responsibility to maintain items in their ownership, and leaseholders will also have unwittingly been subsidising Thames Water.

Leaseholders are paying for the maintenance of drains in their water rates, so would appear to be paying twice. If Lewisham Homes has not formally 'adopted' the drainage systems on their property, the management has failed to register that the drains and pipes are not their responsibility. Whilst Crossfields has confirmation that their pipes and drains are owned by Thames Water, this may have ramifications for all Lewisham Homes properties across the borough.

Status: Crossfields leaseholders raised this issue on Friday afternoon, so management of LH haven't had time to respond. The question remains open as to whether or not the drain works are within LH's remit. 
Update (25/8/14): Lewisham Homes have instructed Mitie not to carry out any drainage works until this issue is resolved. Residents are due to meet with Lewisham Homes management on 11/9/14 to discuss. No word from Lewisham Homes on whether or not this issue impacts other estates.

It's Only an Estimate!

Numerous leaseholders on a variety of LH estates have reported errors in the statements of work they've received from Lewisham Homes. The response from management of Lewisham Homes has been that as long as the work done falls within the statement of work it's fair game. So, if they quote 100 of something, but only do 85, it's fine. Conversely this implies that residents would be consulted before any work beyond the statement of work was undertaken.

Leaseholders on Tanner's Hill Estate recently uncovered significant additional work being performed that's within scope of their SoWs (brickwork re-point increased to 2,000 sq. metres from 30 sq. metres). This work is expected to add at least £65,000 to the cost of the work on the block. This works out to an increase in the final cost of more than £2,500 per property.  

Status: Management of LH have promised to look into this issue.
Update (25/8/14): Management of Lewisham Homes are looking into the matter and have promised leaseholders on the block a formal response this week.

Social Housing Estates in Lewisham

03:33 Posted by British by Choice , 1 comment
Ever wondered which estates are managed by Lewisham Homes, and which aren't? I know I have. My property is on a Lewisham Homes estate, but faces onto a large estate managed by a resident-led housing association.

I set out to determine a few basic facts.
  1. Q: How many social housing properties are there in the Borough of Lewisham?
    A: About 45,000 (including privately owned properties on council estates)
  2. Q: How many properties in the Borough of Lewisham are managed by Lewisham Homes?
    A: About 18,000 (including privately owned properties on their estates)
  3. Q: How many estates does Lewisham Homes manage? Which ones?
    A: About 60 (details are below)
  4. Q: Who else manages social housing estates in the Borough of Lewisham, aside from Lewisham Homes?
    A: An assortment of housing associations and co-operatives

How Many?

According to info I was able to find online, there are some 35,000 'social rented homes in the borough owned by the Council and housing associations'. This implies that the privately owned properties on these estates — leaseholders like you and I — are over and above this figure. My research indicates that an average of about 20-25% of council estates in this part of London are privately owned. That generates a total figure of about 43,750 to 46,667. Therefore, I've assumed the total figure of approximately 45,000.

Which Ones?

I found this list of Lewisham Homes properties online. It was obtained under Freedom of Information back in 2010 by a Mr Agar.

If you are a leaseholder on any of estates managed by Lewisham Homes and would like to join our group, please get in touch. We'd love to hear from you.

The following estates are managed by Lewisham Homes, or at least were in 2010. If your estate isn't listed below and it is managed by Lewisham Homes, please let us know. We aim to keep this info as up to date as possible.

Deptford

  • Achilles Street Estate
  • Albury Street / Mary Ann Gardens / Hugh Fields Estate
  • Commodore Court (9/8/14: added based on the author's observations)
  • Crossfields Estate
  • Deptford Park Estate
  • Deptford Wharf Estate
  • Evelyn Estate
  • Gosterwod St / Etta St
  • Milton Court Estate
  • Pepys Estate
  • Sayes Court Estate
  • Silwood Estate
  • Tanner's Hill Estate
  • Trinity Estate

New Cross & Brockley

  • Antony Estate / Reaston St
  • Brockley / Wickham Estate
  • Clare Estate
  • Dressington Avenue
  • Erlanger Road Estate
  • Foxborough Gardens
  • Honor Oak Estate
  • Kender Street Estate
  • Malpas Road Estate
  • Marsala Road
  • Shardeloes Road Estate
  • Somerville Estate
  • Winslade Estate

Lewisham, Catford, and Lee Green

  • Cordwell Estate
  • Dacre Park Estate
  • Gilmore Estate
  • Heathside Estate and Lethbridge
  • Hither Green
  • Lewisham Hill Estate
  • Mercator Estate
  • Milford Towers
  • Taunton Road Estate

Sydenham & Forest Hill

  • Bell Green Estate
  • Dacres Estate
  • Hazel Grove Estate
  • Home Park Estate
  • Polecroft Lane
  • Bampton Estate
  • Boveney Road Estate
  • Brockley Park Estate
  • Dartmouth Estate
  • Derby Hill Estate
  • Dorrell Estate
  • Forest Estate
  • Greystead Road Estate
  • Hensford Gardens Estate
  • Hillcrest Estate
  • Montem Road Estate
  • Pikethorne
  • Shackleton Close Estate
  • Sheenewood Estate
  • Sydenham Hill Estate (9/8/14: may have transferred to L&Q)
  • Tyson Estate
  • Valentine Court
  • Wood Vale Estate

 

 Who Else?

Aside from Lewisham Homes, some of the biggest social housing managers in the estate include the following.


Thursday, 17 July 2014

Welcome

14:16 Posted by British by Choice , , 1 comment
We are a loosely organised collective of leaseholders from properties managed by Lewisham Homes. We are not in any way affiliated with them. We're their customers — somewhat reluctantly, and sometimes begrudgingly.

According to their website, Lewisham Homes is 'an ambitious organisation set up to improve housing in the borough, currently managing 18,000 homes on behalf of Lewisham Council'. Nearly 5,000 of the properties they manage are leasehold properties (i.e. privately owned, often by the resident(s) of the property).

We love Lewisham (including Deptford, New Cross, Brockley, Forest Hill, etcetera). We love our estates, our homes, our neighbours, and our communities.

We first came together in June 2014 to address the major works underway on many of our estates. We were dissatisfied with how the programme of works was approached, how it was managed, and with how our concerns were being addressed by the management of Lewisham Homes.

We'll let you know how that turns out.