Thanks to all who came to the meeting on 5th April 2016 to discuss leaseholder issues. The minutes are below:
Present: 24 residents, Margaret Pierre (chair), Ben Hall (Metropolitan Leasehold Services), Karla Powell (Metropolitan Housing Officer), Angelique Banton (Metropolitan Housing Services Manager)
A resident from Gaywood Close asked about how the management fee is decided. His lease said the management fee cannot go below 10%. At the time the estate was transferred from Lambeth to the Housing Associations the offer letter said the landlords intend to charge a management fee of 10%. Ben said the management fee was subsequently reviewed and raised to a level higher than 10%. Other residents contributed to a discussion about this: essentially saying there should be a paper trail if Metropolitan were to override what was said in the offer made at the time of estate transfer. Ben said he would email Chris [Secretary’s note: that’s me] with the paper trail about reviews of service charges
[Secretay’s note: Update now available on this, see here]
A resident asked why the management fees were not reduced when the site office closed. Ben said management fees were Metropolitan wide. Residents of estates with no site office do not pay less than residents of an estate with a site office.
Value for Money – Cleaning
A resident from Gaywood Close asked why Metropolitan thought internal cleaning was value for money. He pays £483 a year. When multiplied by the 24 flats in the two blocks that share the stairwell this suggests a cost of £11,600 a year. As the cleaner comes for two hours a week, according to the stairwell noticeboard, this means a cost of £111 an hour for cleaning.
Other residents contributed to the discussion. Cleaning for part of Harbin house costs £60 a month. In Challice Way there is one cleaner for 200 flats, and each resident is billed £50 a month for that cleaner.
Ben said the costs for providing a cleaner were more than the cleaner’s wages. They also included equipment and uniform. Many residents expressed amazement this would explain the markup.
Ben promised to send Chris a breakdown of cleaning charges for all blocks on the estate to explain why they are so high.
Value for Money – Other
A resident said Metropolitan bills the residents of her part of Harbin House £12,000 a year to maintain the lift. For the financial year 2014-2015 this was because £7,000 was spent on remedial work. But this figure was maintained for the year 2015-2016, and the 2016-2017 estimate. Ben said he will email a full cost breakdown for 2015/16 and 2016/17 to Chris, who will forward it to the resident. This will include receipts. [UPDATE: You can see Metropolitan’s response here]
A resident asked is section 20 notices can give the cost to the leaseholder. Ben said Metropolitan is not required to give individual leaseholder costs in section 20 notices, but leaseholders can contact the person named on the section 20 document (probably firstname.lastname@example.org) to obtain individual costings. Chris asked if these individual costings could be included automatically. Ben said no, leaseholders must contain Metropolitan individually.
A resident asked why the service charge for Taylor House included approximately £13,000 for “general maintenance”, with no further breakdown. This was almost 50% of the total service charge for the block. Ben said he would send a breakdown via the TRA [UPDATE: Metropolitan has now responded, see here]
Some leaseholders in High Trees have been paying water charges ever since they obtained their lease. Other leaseholders have only been paying water charges from April 2016. Ben did not know why there was this discrepancy. He will investigate and contact Chris with the result. [UPDATE: Metropolitan has now responded, their response is here]
The academy use heavy vehicles that damage estate roads. A resident asked what they pay to access the estate roads. Ben said Metropolitan have no legal right to charge the academy for access to estate roads. The costs of maintaining the roads the academy use is borne entirely by Metropolitan and passes on to leaseholders in the form of service charges.
There were subsistence problems with Portland House and the flats in Roycroft Close whilst the academy was being constructed. Ben confirmed Metropolitan paid the entire cost of the repairs. He said he knew of no evidence the academy caused the problem. A resident said there had never been subsistence problems until the academy opened, she asked what investigation was done as to whether the academy caused the subsidence. Karla will investigate.
Ground Floor Flats
A resident asked why she had to pay for stairwell cleaning and lift charges when she lived in a ground floor flat. Ben said the terms of her lease was that she had to pay her share of maintenance costs for the entire block, her solicitors should have made that clear at the time of purchase.
Another resident asked what would happen if facilities were added after purchase, for example an entry phone system that did not cover ground floor residents. Ben said the situation was the same – the lease said the resident has to pay their share of all costs of maintaining the building.
Any Other Business
A resident from Brooks House said a street light near her flat was not working. She asked how it affected her service charge. Ben said street lighting was an estate cost. Everyone is the estate paid the same share regardless of whether the lights were working in their part of the estate.
[Secretary’s note: We have put in a level 3 complaint about the broken light by Brooks House]
Leaseholders get an estimated statement of their service charge at the start of the financial year and an actual statement in September. If a leasehold account is in credit you can apply for a refund. Send a request in writing to the contact on the bill and a cheque will be produced. Should take about a month.
A resident asked about the flood in Kynaston House in late summer 2015 that was caused by a Metropolitan owned pipe. Leaseholders were sent claims forms for damages but told to try to claim via the contents insurance before contacting Metropolitan. Ben confirmed leaseholders should not have to pay either directly, or indirectly via their contents insurance for damage caused by a Metropolitan owned pipe.
[Secretary’s Note: Angelique Banton from Metropolitan has subsequently claimed leaseholders at Kynaston House “were not advised to claim from their home contents first they were all given forms to claim against our insurance with Zurich. It was their decision to pursue this or not”]
A resident from 52-75 Gaywood Close claims he was charged a standing order for three electricity meters, but only one was functional. Ben confirmed residents of that block should not have been charged a standing order for the two broken meters. Money has been credited to the resident’s account to correct the mistake. Money will be credited to other leaseholders’ accounts in that block by end of this month.