Farieda Chandoo, 61, George Osborne’s childhood nanny, is a passionate believer in the right-to-buy – which the Tories want to extend to housing associations – but her experience of owning a flat in a council block has been disastrous.
Farieda Chandoo, 61, a former nurse who looked after the five-year-old George, bought her three-bedroom, split-level ex-council flat for £42,000 in 1997.
But she refused to pay for Southwark council’s major refurbishment works at the Brandon Estate in Camberwell and has been left with legal bills of more than £115,000.
“I do not want anything for free from anybody,” says Farieda, an NHS secretary. “If we had received what we were supposed to have when these works were proposed, I would have paid up.
“But we didn’t, and the works were carried out so badly that they now need doing again. I just would not pay for things that we did not get.”
As Farieda was the only leaseholder in her block of 25 in full-time employment, she alone had to pay her full share of £44,000.
She represented herself at the property tribunal and failed, and then appealed in the county court, which set aside four days to hear the case.
Even though she had two surveyors’ reports saying that the works were substandard and had not complied with the original specification, Farieda again lost adding a further £60,000, which with interest and other charges is now over £115,000.
Her mortgage company has paid the bill, but Farieda will have to rent her property out, which she thinks is worth nearly £400,000, and become a lodger herself.
“I have been destroyed by this,” she says. “I just have to put it all in another part of my mind or I would not be able to sleep or go to work.”
During her ordeal, which began from 2011, Farieda even contacted the Osbornes asking for help.
She fondly recalls her time working for Sir Peter and Felicity, and recalls George – then called Gideon – as “a lovely little boy”.
“They were very kind me and the mother was particularly kind letting me sit in the front of the car when we drove down to the country as I suffered from car sickness.
“I hated getting in touch with the Osborne’s as it was like putting out the begging bowl. But I never heard anything back. It was a long time ago.”
Nonetheless, Farieda remains a passionate supporter of the right to buy.
“The policy of encouraging people to own their own flat is good, but leaseholders need to be protected from Labour controlled councils which want to sabotage it by wasting all this money on completely useless major works.”
Farieda is by no means alone. Many leaseholders in Southwark have been caught up in major works schemes and the council even has a policy of buying back right-to-buy properties rather than forfeit them through the courts.”
A neighbour of Farieda’s, David Simpson, 70, also faces a £32,000 bill, which he cannot possibly pay. He has just been taken to court.
Last year Eric Pickles introduced a cap on major works bills at £15,000 for leaseholders in London, and £10,000 outside the capital.
The move followed the death in 2013 of Florence Bourne, 93, a right-to-buy leaseholder tormented by a £50,000 refurbishment bill from Newham council – for works that were subsequently ruled unnecessary.
In contrast to the rotting concrete at the 1970s Brandon Estate, where Farieda lives, the housing offices of Southwark council are unusually lavish in Tooley Street.
Sebastian O’Kelly, of the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, is quoted in the Sunday Times saying:
“Leaving aside all other issues, Farieda’s case shows how appallingly lay applicants can be treated by lawyers and the courts.
“Why were four days set aside to hear this case, if much of her evidence was deemed irrelevant.
“Who can really take pride in taking £115,000 off a 61-year-old woman who should never have been exposed to a four day case on her own?”
It is a question for wider discussion whether it is right for, say, young taxpayers who have no prospect of buying a home themselves should be subsidising these purchases and then the major works as well.
Local authority and housing association tenants have the most secure tenancies that exist.