Thursday, 25 June 2009

Lambeth Leaseholder Service Charge Estimates 2009/2010

Today I was emailed a document, sent to a number of councilors/officers in the London Borough of Lambeth about the ludicrous Lambeth Living service charge increases for 2009/2010. Apparently, the service charge increase is widespread and a number of residents have complained direct to the BBC, so expect to see the item feature on the news tonight!

Amongst other items, the email alleges:

* The estimates have gone out to leaseholders, 4 months late.
* The charges appear to have gone up by at least 50% and in many cases nearly 100% for the coming year.
* There was no forewarning residents of the huge increases other than one letter 7 months ago regarding the possible increase in heating charges.
* There are charges on the invoices for services and contracts that do not exist.
* The delays have resulted in a huge cash flow problem, not only for Lambeth, but for residents, as Lambeth Living will be deducting 4 months at the increased rate from Leaseholders bank accounts - resulting in many peoples' account being in unauthorised overdraft.
* No notice was given to Leasehold Council nor residents that the increases were going to be so high

Also, the email states...

"Leaseholders have called the contact centre only to be told that they would receive a call the Leaseholder call back in 48 hours. When Leaseholders called again after not receiving their call back, there were to that the contact centre had received a directive that they were not to speak to anyone about these charges and that Leaseholders must put their enquiries/complaints in writing.

This would conveniently take us past the three days notice that leaseholders have before the Direct Debit requests would be made on their bank accounts."

No doubt we'll be hearing more about this in the coming weeks. Why not leave a comment if you live in or near SE11 and say how this affects you.


Anonymous said...

The Beeb are covering on Fridays BBC London news.
Sad that it is now escalating to this level and still, no-one at Lambeth or Lambeth Living wants to really sort this out.

Steve said...

Hi Leaseholders

It has been suggested to me by a reliable source inside the Council that the reason for the increases in your bills is so Lambeth Living can balance the Housing Revenue Account by March 31st - as the central Government has stipulated they must do. I sincerely hope that this is not the case.

I tried to get a temporary stop to deducting 4 months of charges out of your accounts, but no-one was willing to call me back last night. I did my best. Sorry all.

I recommend that you ask to see the information that Lambeth Living used to calculate your charges. it is your legal right.

Estimated Charges should be based on the actual charges for last year and the increase in inflation..... which I seem to have been reading for some time, that the UK is in a deflationary period..... so by default, we should be having our bills reduced.

If you want to find out your legal situation - call the organisation called LEASE - and talk to them. They are great, knowledgeable and really helpful.

Good luck and remember to go to your Leaseholder forums where you will have a chance to have your say.

Keep up the fight.

Co-Chair, North Lambeth Leaseholder Forum

Anonymous said...

Just out of curiosity, as I am a private leaseholder who pays my service charges/ground rent to my freeholder, how much are current fees and how much will they be with the increase? 50% sounds steep, but 50% of what? Not to sound horrible, but if you don't pay your increases, I fear I will be paying them for you.

Steve said...

Hi Anon

If your landlord is Lambeth then you should ask for the background information on your service charges. It seems that there is very little evidence of a fair number of items that are appearing on Leaseholders invoices. And most challenges result in deductions being made in favour of the Leaseholder.

There are charges on my bill for instance where there is no service contract yet we are being billed. And each year, that charge has doubled and still keeps appearing on the bills.

You should not be paying for anyone else - the law states that you can only be billed for the charges incurred in the terms of your leas - which is your clock and estate costs. Anything else you are charged for is illegal. However, if you don't look through your bill and scrutinise and ask for the evidence etc, then technically yes, you will be paying towards recuperating the money Lambeth Living is constantly haemorrhaging due to incapable management of the services and contracts.

So, all I can say to Anon is that it is your responsibility to ask for the documentary evidence behind you estimated and your actual charges and therefore you will only pay what you owe.

If you are a private leaseholder in the private market, then you have still the same rights and would need to take it up with your landlord.

Best to call LEASE and get their advice.

Co-Chair, North Lambeth Area Leaseholders' Forum

jim said...

jim said...

sorry, wrong copy&paste. what i meant to say was:

thanks for the post, it echoed my experience. more than 100% increase in S/C - £300 for CCTV alone. have written to council, waiting for reply.

Sue Lawes said...

We are in the same position in Lewisham - although not quite as much to pay. But same problem: no warning over hikes, no improvement in services to match. New charges introduced without consultation, eg Antisocial Behaviour & Resident Involvement. Money is often spent needlessly on "improvements" without consultation. Examination of Repair Summaries for all blocks on one estate shows huge accounting errors. Told it's not possible to say what adhoc repairs will be. Estimates based on average 3 years actuals plus up to 10% inflation. Same excuse: we'd not been paying enough before. Audit Commission mock inspection found many weaknesses but stated leaseholders hadn't been appropriately charged. Freedom of Information Act enquiry revealed this was based on statements from officers and not actual figures. Records show that intention was to raise £1.8m from leaseholders (and similar from tenants but there's more of them) to go towards Repairs & Maintenance budget & help balance books on HRA budget. Some of us are refusing to pay. A meeting with our ALMO has achieved nothing so far. Please get in touch with me.

Sue Lawes said...

By the way, did you see this?

Anonymous said...

To Steve, Co-chair of the NLLR:

I am a private leaseholder with Lambeth as my freehodler.

The problem is that under the LTA 1985 my rights as against Lambeth as a public authority are greatly reduced. The penalties for failing to comply with the service charge protections under that act (such as inspection of accounts etc) do not apply to to local authorities, therefore what is my recourse?

As to my legal right to see how estimates are calculated, my only statutory right in this regard is under s.19(2) of the LTA 1985 which provides that they must be "reasonable". Perhaps there is LVT case law extrapoltaing this provision further so that it should be as you suggest: "Estimated Charges should be based on the actual charges for last year and the increase in inflation..... " if so you guidance would be appreciated!

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