The family of a woman, aged 93, who died in her ex-council leasehold flat blames the council causing her death by submitting a “guesstimate” £50,000 bill for a new roof.
It now appears that an LVT has accepted a surveyor’s report that the roof might have lasted another 40 years.
Florence Bourne died in her first floor flat in Newham, North London, which was covered in scaffolding for the unnecessary repairs.
Indeed, her family told the Express newspaper that she died of a heart attack after being startled by a falling tile when she stepped on to her balcony.
Her son Roy Bourne, 65, is quoted as saying: “”I was sitting there next to her on the day before she died and all she could say to me was, ‘I’m so sorry, son, I’ve left you with such a debt’.
“For a woman that was proud, who had served her country and who had always lived as we all should live, honestly and decently, that was a horrific way to die.
“She was so independent it was a job to get her to accept help even from her own family. She died of shame because she thought she’d left the family with a massive debt [for the roof]. It’s the last thing she’d ever want.”
The case highlights the perils that can face those who buy their council flats.
Councils are notoriously spendthrift on repairs of their property. While the bills aren’t paid by the council tenants, they are by those who have bought the property.
They then discover that they have very limited protections under leasehold law when councils start issuing eye-watering payment demands for repairs.
The LVT said: “No survey or other expert evidence is provided”, adding that it was “satisfied that the existing roof remained in reasonable condition with a remaining life of 40 years and that it was not reasonable to replace it in 2010”.
Florence was a constituent of Eric Pickles, Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government.
He is quoted: “We are looking into this problem and trying to find out how widespread this problem is across the country. Newham had a duty of care to exercise proper control over what happens to those properties.
“Either they were excessively and supremely incompetent or they didn’t care.”
Any leasehold owners in ex-local authority property facing disproportionate repair bills should raise the matter with Pickles, or housing minister Mark Prisk.
LKP thanks Nigel Wilkins, of CARL (Campaign Against Residential Leasehold) for bringing this case to our attention
This is not confined to the public sector landlord. When I, without prior notice, just received a £5K ‘demand’ from my private freeholder/landlord followed one month later by a demand for a further £3K this made me physically sick for a month. No details were given until the subsequent LVT hearing, about a year later, and then schedules were suddenly conjoured up to suppoprt the gueesstimate and the demands which by then had topped £20K (and growing). Needless to say this only gave me a long bank holiday period in which to fruitlessly consult experts (Easter) and then they ‘faxed’ a further 30+ sheets to the actual hearing. The LVT seemed to be quite happy about this ‘tactic’. Also the surveyor who allegedly prepared the original ‘guesstimate’ declined to attend so I was unable to cross-examine.
Apparantly, so long as you call your demands a ‘reserve fund’ specific details nor s20 consultations are not required nor does the s20 capping protection apply.
Since advanced warning would have, at the very least, been polite and prepared the leaseholder for the sudden assault of formal ‘demands’, one has to assume that at the back of the minds of those reputed building professionals who sent out the first demands out of the blue, there was the notion that if the odd leaseholder did drop dead with shock, that would only clear away a potential obstacle to their and the landlord’s objectives.
It is outrageous the way that leaseholders are sent demands without any consultation; leaseholders end up in a legal dispute, where most of the time we are not aware of the legal maze we find ourselves in
Where managing agents are using their professionals on a day to day basis No wonder leaseholders are under terrible stress for months or even years.
When I bought my first block leasehold flat, I had never heard of the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal—however four years later I am still involved with them to this day.
“While the bills aren’t paid by the council tenants,” Wrong! The Housing Revenue Account is ring fenced – expenditure on repairs is met out of rental income i.e. by the tenants.
Jeff, Could you elaborate on this? As I understand it, the repairs in a council block would be paid for out of the council’s entire Housing Revenue Account – ie by all the tenants in a particular council.
This causes resentment among leasehold owners as proportionally a higher levy is raised from them, ie a calculation based on their individual block.
Is this the case. Thanks,
Why is that wrong or inequitable? Why does that lead to leaseholders paying more than their due proportion of the actual costs incurred? All tenants pay as per their tenancy agreement / lease. Some tenants (leaseholders) pay towards the actual cost of works when incurred. Other tenants pay every week within their rent. That is what each has agreed to do.
I seem to recall mention being made of contractors making contributions towards expenses to councils in relation to being awarded work. This creates yet another conflict of interest. As ever, it is the leaseholder who suffers.
Jeff, Well the problem is that people buy these leasehold properties thinking that they are taking a step forward, and then find it is in fact three backwards as the bills are so much higher for them than their tenant neighbours. Of course, whether council accommodation should be sold off is another discussion altogether.
Well thats wrong to say that the secure tenants or assured tenants in RSLs pay as they do not pay toward capital works of this nature as those rents are artifcially set , have no relation block to block for their payment and the resulting expenses, while the leaseholder does pay for the full cost of the works. Morover much of this work is funded, and only possible, by funding for items such as decent homes initiatives so that the priority for spending is to “spend it while we have it/can get it”. There is therefore a marked difference in an RSL approach to works than Councils.
The secure tenant is almost always is a position of need and has no choice to the terms of the tenancy, unlike leaseholders so its wrong to say that these are terms that either party freely agreed to .