Leaseholders' fury at being treated as 'a gravy train' by Camden Council
PUBLISHED: 18:56 08 June 2016
Leaseholders in Camden claim the council is using them as a gravy train by issuing unfair, arbitrary and inflated service charges for work which they say is sometimes unnecessary and poorly executed by private contractors.
During a meeting at the Town Hall last week, leaseholders expressed their fury at being “treated like idiots” by the council and demanded an investigation into the charges - with some from the Maiden Lane estate claiming they have been hit with charges of £40,000.
The controversial service charges are levied against those who have bought their former socially-owned homes in blocks of flats for maintenance to the exterior of the buildings and the grounds.
Several leaseholders from the Torriano estate in Kentish Town have complained that they have not been given the correct notice of work and that contracts have not been tendered out competitively, leading to extortionate charges.
Carol Delaney is secretary of the Torriano Estate Tenants and Leaseholders’ Association and has lived in her property since 1979.
She said: “When I moved in, I understood there would be costs as Camden remained the freeholder, but these costs have escalated out of all proportion, There seems to be no rhyme or reason to it now.
“We are receiving less and less consultation about works which the council says is necessary – like with the railings they have just installed at Torriano, where we have been told the cost could be between three and four thousand for each of us – we are being told different amounts for the same work.”
Ms Delaney said the council has consistently failed to issue residents with the required section 20 notice of intention, so the first they know of work being carried out is when scaffolding goes up.
Another Torriano resident, Terry Rowland, has lived in his flat for 39 years – his entire life. He said he believes the council is regularly charged over-the-odds by private contractors, and that the work being carried out is often slap-dash.
Mr Rowland said: “It’s difficult not so see it as a conspiracy – although it could just be gross incompetence. Either way, it’s a gravy train for Camden, who are treating us like idiots.
“The work (to the railings) was really shoddily done by S&D construction, and I have many photographs to prove that they cut corners.”
The Torriano residents have disputed the urgency of need for works to their balustrade and challenged the council over its alleged failure to issue a section 20, as the absence of this notice would mean the maximum they should be charged is £250 each.
The meeting was attended by Somers Town Labour councillor Roger Robinson, who took down questions on behalf of the leaseholders to pass on to Camden’s housing chief, Cllr Pat Callaghan, who did not attend.
The Torriano residents said they had been told by the council that they were being taken to a first-tier tribunal to establish the legitimacy of the charges – but Cllr Callaghan said this was not the case.
Cllr Callaghan, who has agreed to meet with the leaseholders next week, said: “We are committed to ensuring our buildings are maintained to a high standard of repair and we want to work with our leaseholders to resolve their issues.
“We need to do these essential works to keep our residents safe. They will reinforce outer walkways where the brickwork has cracked and become unstable to a point where some have collapsed.
“We have sent two consultation notices to leaseholders, explaining the nature of the works and detailing likely costs. No costs have been issued yet.
“Residents have met with our contract manager and we are gathering further opinions from our leaseholders on our contracts, before I meet with them to discuss their issues.”