Leaseholders escape paying out thousands as tribunal case collapses
Leaseholders have won an important section 20 victory against social landlord Circle Housing Merton Priory (CHMP) which was demanding £22,000 from each leaseholder.
In the event, the leaseholders will pay less than half that sum.
Circle Housing Merton Priory wanted to remove roofs and windows, remove asbestos and carry out major electrical work at the Watermeads Estate in Octavia Close, Mitcham, South West London.
But it over-inflated the charges drastically.
Valerie Watson’s son Ryan bought a flat at the Merton Priory site in July 2015 with financial help from his family and a pay-out following a motorcycle accident.
Within months Circle Housing Merton Priory was demanding £22,000 for major works improvements, even though CHMP had told the conveyancing solicitors no major works were planned.
“I don’t think CHMP deliberately misled us,” says Mrs Watson in her witness statement.
“I just think it was a mistake which they wouldn’t admit to, and this has been my experience of them ever since.
“They put little thought or consideration into what they do or how their actions affect the lives of the people who live in their properties.
“They just seem to want to take the easy option and don’t care what it costs them, their tenants or their leaseholders.”
The issue was taken up by the Wimbledon Guardian newspaper and local councillors.
Frustrated estate residents fighting £22,000 bill for repairs by housing association Circle Housing Merton Priory
Frustrated residents of a Mitcham estate, pictured below, are fighting bills topping £22,000 each for major work they feel is unnecessary and too expensive, leaving their homes uninhabitable while work is underway. Circle Housing Merton Priory (CHMP) plan to remove roofs and windows, remove asbestos and carry out major electrical work on the Watermeads Estate in Octavia Close, Mitcham.
The residents association commissioned their own reports on the needed works, which proved some were unnecessary.
When the issue seemed set for the tribunal earlier this summer, Circle Housing Merton Priory became conciliatory and mediation was proposed.
“At the meeting we showed them examples of the electrical overcharging, such as charging £82.81 for a £8 padlock and £331.69 for an earth bar that is under £5 to buy and takes 10 minutes to fit,” says Mrs Watson.
“I explained to Circle Housing Merton Priory that it wasn’t just us 27 leaseholders who were being overcharged: they were also being overcharged for their 63 tenanted flats.”
Shambolic cost control by Circle Housing had already prompted a fraud inquiry concerning £170,000 overcharging involving Keepmoat:
An independent fraud investigation into a 9,500-home housing group has uncovered repairs overcharging of more than £170,000, nearly a year after a whistleblower alleged wrongdoing to the Wimbledon Guardian.
At the hearing Mrs Watson was introduced to Circle Housing Merton Priory’s barrister, Justin Bates.
“He shook my hand and said ‘I can only apologise’. He then went on to say that he wasn’t sure how things had gone so wrong and would like to ask the judges to give us a few hours to discuss things and try and work out an agreement.”
The upshot was that each leaseholder would pay £3,500 for the works, although any who had had windows replaced would pay an additional £3,200.
Circle Housing undertook to sort out the electrical works itself.
Mrs Watson adds: “Our local councillor, who had come with us, asked for a payment to be made to me and the head of the residents’ association in recognition of the time and effort that we had put into the case.
“This was again, agreed without hesitation.”
LKP has no idea what this involved, but hopes it was substantial.
“I left the court feeling a mixture of shock and elation but most of all a sense of relief that it was all over.
“That however, was a bit naive of me.
“I’m currently in a battle with them over service charges. Of the 13 items on my son’s last service charge bill, I’ve had 6 removed and I’m still arguing over 4 of them. I also discovered that they add a 15% admin charge to every repair invoice amount.”
LKP warmly congratulates the leaseholders at Circle Housing Merton Priory.
Even by social housing standards, Circle Housing appears to have been feckless and inept, loading unwarranted charges on homeowners while allowing itself to be right royally ripped off by contractors.
LKP believes Ryan should feel very proud of his mum.