Buyers launch legal action after £75k bill for flammable cladding
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Residents of a West Hampstead apartment block covered in flammable cladding are attempting to boot out their management company.
Leaseholders at The Ivery, in Iverson Road, have launched a legal action to seize control of costly fire safety repairs to their building.
Homeowners received initial bills last month for more than £70,000 – but felt they were given insufficient detail about how the sums had been arrived at.
Last month, Alex Linton opened a service charge bill from Parkfords Management, which runs The Ivery for freeholder RG Securities. The bill was £75,277.
The 34-year-old lives in a three-bedroom flat with his wife and daughter.
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Last year, fire experts said The Ivery was covered in flammable cladding, insulation and balcony materials.
Camden Council has since served a notice demanding the problems are fixed.
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A schedule of anticipated prices sent to leaseholders last month said new cladding would cost more than £2million.
Other costs included £20,000 for a waking watch, almost £40,000 for a new fire alarm system and more than £270,000 in “professional fees”.
Each leaseholder's share will depend on the size of their flat.
Alex's will be 5.92 per cent of the total – which would be £147,086, based on the estimates provided by Parkfords.
His £75,000 bill was only for the first six months of 2021. Further instalments were to be included in future service charges.
As "terrifying" as his bill was, he said, "Other, bigger flats would have to pay even more."
Lucie Gutfreund, from campaign group End Our Cladding Scandal, said Alex’s estimated bill was one of the highest she had heard of.
“That is an absolutely shocking figure,” she said.
A spokesperson for both Parkfords and Pier Management Ltd, which is RG Securities’ asset manager, said they “are not pursuing the costs of the full remediation works at this stage and encouraged leaseholders to make contact if they had any concerns about payment.”
But leaseholders said their main concern was a lack of basis for the charges – no invoices, no competitive tenders, no explanation as to what the “professional fees” were for.
They said it was unclear whether Parkfords had included in the costs a commission for itself.
A spokesperson said the professional fees were for an "application to the Government support scheme" and "pursuing contributions from the developer and building warranties”.
However, they repeatedly declined to say who the fees were being paid to.
The leaseholders decided to find out for themselves what works were needed and how much they should cost, so asked Parkfords for copies of construction documents.
But several told the Ham&High that they attended a Zoom meeting at which Parkfords said it did not possess the paperwork.
They have since received legal advice that Parkfords is required to hold the documents as part of a statutory “health and safety file”.
Parkfords and RG Securities did not answer the Ham&High’s questions about the allegedly missing documents.
Without these documents, leaseholders say they cannot be sure what works are required or whether Parkfords’ estimates are reasonable.
Parkfords and Pier Management said a full competitive tender process for the remedial works was planned.
It added that it had taken action to “support leaseholders" in the meantime, like forward-funding the waking watch and fire alarm system, as it was “acutely aware of the difficulties faced by leaseholders through no fault of their own.”
Nonetheless, leaseholders have started action to form their own management company under a process called Right to Manage (RTM).
Under RTM rules, if more than half of leaseholders in a building team up, they can take control of the building, including service charges and structural works.
The source said all of the building’s leaseholders had joined the action.
“We have served them notice and now it’s a matter of transferring the documents,” they said. “That can take up to four months.”
A spokesperson for Parkfords and Pier Management confirmed an RTM notice had been received on April 8.
The companies said they would “respond in accordance with the legislation”.
Rules say a claim can only be challenged for three reasons: the building doesn’t qualify, fewer than half of the flats have signed up, or the RTM is legally non-compliant.