The so-called Florrie’s Law introduces a new £15,000 cap on repair bills for local authority leaseholders and will come into force this week.
Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles vowed to introduce the cap after a 93-year-old constituent was landed with a £50,000 bill by her local authority for roof repairs.
Newham Council based its fee on a guess because it had not conducted a proper survey on the first-floor flat. It later emerged the roof would have lasted another 40 years and the work was unnecessary.
The family of Florence Bourne say she “died of shame” because she had never been in debt in her life and simply could not afford to pay the bill for work on her Brentwood home.
Another “victim” is Farieda Chandoo – an NHS secretary and former nanny to George Osborne – who challenged a £40,000 repair bill from Southwark Council in south London.
She thought the quality of the work – which she showed LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation – was appalling.
Two court cases later, she faces total bills – including Southwark’s legal costs – of more than £100,000. Her full story, including video interview, can be found here
Mr Pickles ordered officials at the Department for Communities and Local Government to review legislation governing council house repairs after Florence’s plight was brought to his attention.
Now new directions are being issued to councils and housing associations which will force them to limit the amount they can charge for future major repair, maintenance, or improvement works when they are wholly or partly funded by the government.
Outside London the maximum level will be levied at £10,000 in any five-year period, with a cap of £15,000 for the capital.
Authorities will bear the outstanding costs of work themselves.
Mr Pickles said:
“I was appalled at Florence’s treatment and was determined that no other leaseholder should ever have to endure the stress and hardship she experienced in the final weeks of her life.
“Florence served her country as a WAAF in the Second World War, raised a loving family and believed in paying her way, so to be faced with this excessive fee was more than she could stand.”
Charging excessive amounts for council house repairs not only targets some of the most vulnerable people in society, it can amount to a failure in a local authority’s duty of care.
Under Florrie’s Law local authorities will no longer be able to levy huge bills for future government funded repair work on people who simply have little or no hope of meeting their demands.
The family of Mrs Bourne, a grandmother of 7, described the pensioner as having “old school morality” that disapproved of living in debt.
Her son, Roy Bourne, of Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, said his mother lost weight because she worried about meeting the bill and sobbed at the thought of saddling her family with the debt.
Mrs Bourne died following a heart attack she suffered when she was startled by the sound of falling roof tiles onto her balcony during the proven unnecessary works on the roof.
A leasehold valuation tribunal found last year that Newham Council had not commissioned a proper survey of the flat. An independent surveyor commissioned after Mrs Bourne’s death found the roof would have lasted another 40 years.
The devil is in the detail though – the mandatory directions require the property to be the primary home of the leaseholder (so there might be a problem if you’ve gone into a care home and your family are living there) and you have to be the leaseholder when the works start. There is some good coverage here: http://nearlylegal.co.uk/blog/2014/08/indecent-homes-major-works-charges/
I hate to say it, but your post is massively inaccurate. The cap only applies where the major works are part funded by Decent Homes Backlog funding, or any future government funding. And it only applies to works part funded by Backlog tuning from the 2013 spending round, which I understand will come into play in 2015/16.
And as anon comments, only when the leaseholder is actually living in the property as their primary home.
You are giving false hope to people if you don’t make that clear.
Nearly Legal could I suggest your comment on the comment is also inaccurate, without the legalistic hyperbole of suggesting it massively so. You are suggesting the proposal is more limited than is the case.
(b)(ii) of the schedule covers other repairs maintenance and improvements where assistance comes from central funding from the SoS or via the HCA. In my books that should go on to catch the majority of spending going forward as almost all very large projects have some central funding.
That does leave some projects which, for the moment, may not be limited. But it is a great improvement from before. Should the social housing groups continue to send out large demands, we’ll cover it and then lobby Mr Pickles to do some more work.
While it may be useful for some sites to indulge in a bit of legal onanism, the purpose of LKP is to promote change and provide information to the non-legal experts.
To give a sub-clause by sub-clause interpretation can by just as misleading, in its own way. Your own post repeats mostly what is in the mandatory and discretionary rules and a twitter exchange with an assistant director of the GLA. Are we to get our legal advice from Twitter nowadays? Twitter can be wrong too.
The trouble with the law is no matter how accurate you are there are still going to be errors so your comment about it being the primary home is also wrong.
The Directions state ““qualifying lessee” means a tenant who is an individual and occupies the dwelling as his or her only or principal home.”
By my reading that means the leaseholder does not have to be living in the flat at the time the works start only that it is their principal home. It does, of course, mean investment landlords are not covered, nor are those who live in Spain for a large part of the year.
So instead of moaning that we have not got something legally spot on why not join us in trying to get things changed? Or do you think we have not spotted there are still some holes in this particular fence?
I did consider removing the above posts puffing the mainly anonymous NearlyLegal website, which is purportedly written by some shy landlord and tenant solicitors.
The article referred to is, in fact, written by Giles Peaker, a partner in Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London, and former teacher at Derby University.
The website appears to be an honest, not obviously commercial initiative by enthusiastic landlord and tenant lawyers.
Too kind. Our site is deeply uncommercial. And there is nothing purported about our writing. It is definitely writing.. It remains that your post doesn’t make clear the limits of the new directions.
For your point-scoring to have worked, I would have had to have written “purportedly writing by some shy landlord and tenant solicitors …”
I wrote “purportedly written by some shy etc …”
I think the indication of the limits of Pickles’ cap is useful and I am grateful.
Our article isn’t “massively inaccurate”, but like everything – your grasp of verbs and adverbs? – could be improved.
Thanks for your contribution.