ILA Crowdfunding bid to challenge hidden housing repair costs

Reposted from Islington Tribune

LETTERS: Crowdfunding bid to challenge hidden housing repair costs

Published: 27 November, 2015

• IT’S great to see the Tribune has started to report on Islington’s housing problems once again.

What was not reported in this article was that during the scrutiny committee meeting I asked Partners representatives how many surveyors it employed to service the properties it manages on behalf of the council; its answer was approximately 12. Since Islington Council employs another 60 surveyors to service the rest of its housing stock the total number of surveyors paid for by residents is more than 70, and according to the council, the majority of its surveyors are not even Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors qualified.

 Since leaseholders’ bills for cyclic work show that all contracts are inclusive of 11 per cent for “professional fees” to the council, surely we are entitled to expect that the council employs only fullyRICS-qualified staff?

If the council is using potentially unqualified staff (not chartered surveyors) to assess the condition of our homes, how do we know that the costs and quality of the work, for which we are grossly overcharged, actually represents true “value for money”?

The answer is simple. We need to be able to freely inspect the schedule of rates appertaining to the contracts which have been agreed between the council and its contractors. Since we pay the bill we should be able to see just what the council signs us up to.

Curiously, the council not only refuses to allow us to view this document, but has recently attended a court hearing in order to make certain it can reserve the right to restrict legislative compliance to a degree which suits its purpose – basically, to stop residents seeing the cost of their repairs.

In order to challenge this position those concerned need to be able to pursue their case without fear of financial pressures.

Therefore, we are currently examining the possibility of following a course of crowdfunding to finance a challenge. If you are prepared to assist financially please email us on Islington.Leaseholders@hotmail.co.uk.

Remember, if the council does not have to show how your money is spent, it’s you who will have to pay the hidden costs.

DR BS POTTER
Chairman, Islington Leaseholders Association

Islington leaseholders – Housing Scrutiny Committee Panel Meeting Mon 16th Nov 2015 – Including report from Islington Leaseholders Association recommendations for consideration.‏

Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA) has asked me to forward this information onto you all regarding the Housing Scrutiny Committee Panel Meeting which takes place this Monday 16th November  2015, at Islington Town Hall, in committee room 4, at 7pm.
Dr Potter would like as many as possible leaseholders to turn up at this meeting.
Please see below Islington Housing Scrutiny Committee: Capital Programming Minutes and click on the attachment Report from Islington Leaseholders Association where you can viewILA’s Recommendations for consideration.
 
Kind Regards Dr B.S. Potter Chairman (ILA)
 

Islington Housing Scrutiny Committee: Capital Programming

Recommendations for consideration 

·  Promotion and facilitation of Tenants & Residents Associations prior to consideration of works in order to facilitate and enhance subsequent involvement of ‘tenants’ in consultation.

·  The size of each project and therefore each contract should be smaller.

·  Cyclical maintenance to be undertaken block by block with the occasional aggregation of two or more blocks into single projects but never such as to risk infringing the EU procurement thresholds.1

·  Projects to be undertaken with the pre-project scoping consultation as now intended as universal practice well before and in addition to statutorily required ‘Section 20’ 

Consultation 

·  Irrespective of the size of contract a clause should be written to the effect that there is to be no sub-contractor without the prior approval of the Council’s contract. 

Administrator 

·  The practice of allowing contractors a specific clause prohibiting the photo-copying or otherwise making generally available of the Schedule of Rates to be terminated.

·  The Schedule of Rates used for major works projects and responsive repairs to be made available to the public on the internet in the interest of transparency and to pre-empt time absorbing enquiries.

·  Contracts to be JCT Contracts of the current edition and as appropriate for the size and nature of each project.2

·  Contracts once signed should be made available to the public on the internet.  Personal names and signatures should be redacted.

·  Frequent and adequate inspection and supervision of the works during construction, incorporating, where possible, involvement of ‘tenant inspectors’.

NB ‘Tenants’ includes both tenants with long leases and those with periodic tenancies.

Islington Leaseholders’ Association 

Islington Housing Scrutiny Committee: Capital Programming 

1. Contention 

Leaseholders contend that the procurement process as currently operated by the London Borough of Islington works against the interests of Leaseholders and by implication against the interest of secure tenants and the electorate of Islington.

The choice of contractor is limited to those that are big enough to tender for the work through the EU procurement process.

The contractors who actually do the work on site are typically not the contractors that have been selected but their sub-contractors.

Once the work on site is embarked upon leaseholders are faced with what amounts to a campaign of attrition and exercise of forensics if they are to ascertain from their bills whether they have been charged correctly against the scale of charges that the contractors have agreed with the Borough and it may be that the degree of secrecy that is being applied by the contractors is being applied following prior collaboration between the contractors in what amounts to a cartel arrangement.

2. Evidence 

Attendees to the meeting on 2015 September 07 heard repeated the allegation that the JCT Contracts are “adversarial”. The allegation that the construction industry had become to adversarial has been made repeatedly since the early 1990s and the recommendations of the Latham3 and Egan4 Reports were directed at eliminating the adversarial aspects and the excessive amount of litigation being experienced by promoting ‘partnership’ as an alternative to contractual relationships.

However now that we have the benefit of hindsight we can see that the changes that have been wrought have not delivered us to the promised land. We may not have the litigation that we had previously but this is only because we do not have the benefit of robust contracts under which to seek redress and cannot contemplate the expense of needing to go through the performance of going out to tender again.

What we manifestly do experience is a lack of performance resulting in the need for works of reparation that the client has to pay for without recourse to the contractors who, for their part have been denied the incentive to produce quality work.

“It must never be forgotten that architects who cause their clients to suffer loss through ignorance in administering a contract may be liable for professional negligence.” Should the fashion for partnership provide a defence?

So are the JCT contracts essentially adversarial and were they to blame for the litigation that used to be experienced? 

It is the very essence of the JCT contracts that they were devised, and revised over the years, such that it could not be argued in the courts that their terms were unfair or prejudicial to any one of the various parties to any construction project.

To this end The Joint Contracts Tribunal, to give it the name from which ‘JCT’ emanates, following recommendations in the 1994 Latham Report, currently the operational structure comprises 7 members who approve and authorise publications. They were listed by the JCT in 2014 as the British Property Federation, the Contractors Legal Grp Limited, the Local Government Association, the National Specialist Contractors Council, the Royal Institute of British Architects, the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors and the Scottish Building Contract

Islington Leaseholders’ Association 

Islington Housing Scrutiny Committee: Capital Programming

Committee. In 1998 the JCT became a limited company. Thus all aspects of the construction industry have agreed the terms of the contracts and any contractor would have they work cut out if they were to attempt to argue that the contract is unfair.

We should ask whether the degree of litigation prevalent at the end of the last century had more to do with the economies that were being through reduction in the degree to which work was laboriously specified and inspected during construction.

EU Procurement:

In parallel with the move away from robust contracts we have, perhaps out of some misguided impression that an economy of scale will necessarily be beneficial, been uccoured into undertaking projects of work of such size that EU procurement rules require advertising work in the Official Journal of the European Union (OJEU).

However we see time and time again that whilst those that tender for the work are large companies those that actually do the work on site are comparatively small sub-contractors the choice of which is out of the clients direct control.

It seems that a sub-contractor can be considered large enough to do the work despite not being large enough to tackle the EU procurement process.

The net result is a lack of control for the client who can find themselves with work being carried out by sub-contractors that they would not have chosen to employ and subcontractors who are actually doing the work can not be guaranteed to be rewarded for their efforts by being considered again. Someone is paying the cost of expensive EU tendering for all the projects that the contractors do not win and someone is paying for the administrative cost inherent in the multi-layered nature of the contractor and this can only be the client.

Further as to the sizes of the contract, it should be noted that aggregating works into larger contracts can in some circumstances be readily demonstrated to have been detrimental to the treatment of the buildings. This was the case with the Merryweather Court and Brennand Court, Tremlett Grove contract that was subsequently the subject of a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal. It was upheld that all the roofs were treated the same despite the fact that they had not all been inspected and that some having been protected with insulation and concrete slabs had almost certainly not required replacement.

Transparency:

We are given to understand that the London Borough of Islington has received legal advice to the effect that it does not have to release information on the costing of housing projects.  The exact nature of that advice is not known. It is not know what question was asked nor do we know what answer was given.

Was the loaded question asked as to whether it would prove in time that the Borough had to release the information and was the answer given that leaseholders would be unlikely to win a case against the Borough or was some other question asked?

It is recommended that no further contracts be entered into with the clause prohibiting disclosure of the full schedule of rates. It is to be anticipated that the council will be told that the inclusion of such a clause is standard practice. For this reason the Council may have to work with other councils to counter a practice for which there can be no justification once contracts have been signed. What do we call contractors who are conspiring together and how could this fit with the concept of free competition?

Islington Leaseholders’ Association 

References: 

EC Procurement Thresholds 

http://www.ojec.com/threshholds.aspx

The Joint Contracts Tribunal 

http://www.jctltd.co.uk/ 

3 Latham Report (1994 July): 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Latham_Report

4 Egan Report (1998) 

http://constructingexcellence.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/rethinking_construction_report.pdf

“Latham’s report: Did it change us?” By Joey Gardiner, Building Product Search (2014 June 27th) 

http://www.building.co.uk/lathams-report-did-it-change-us?/5069333.article

Housing Grants, Construction and Regeneration Act 1996 (1996 Chapter 53): 

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1996/53/pdfs/ukpga_19960053_en.pdf

Local Democracy, Economic Development and Construction Act 2009: 

http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/2009/20/pdfs/ukpga_20090020_en.pdf 

 

BBC program wants Council & Partners Leaseholders experiences of works, charges for repairs etc

BBC are doing a programme looking at the experience of leaseholders when it comes to charges for repairing and maintaining communal buildings. They are keen to talk to people who can give them an insight into how this system works – are repairs/maintenance done promptly… is the quality of the work adequate… are the charges that are levied on leaseholders fair etc.? They may want you take part in program.

They are are also keen to talk to PFI leaseholders.

Please mail ILA 2-3 paragraphs with your experiences by Fri 8th May and well pas them on, thanks

ILA meet Wed 13.05.15

Islington Leaseholders Association Meeting

on

Wednesday 13th May 2015
in

Islington Town Hall
at
7pm – 9pm

Hosting the meeting: Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA)
Guest Speaker:  TBC
Website www.ila.org.uk
Twitter @ilaorguk
Face Book www.facebook.com/IslingtonLeaseholdersAssociation

Volunteers wanted
The ILA are looking for a ‘secretary’ to take minutes and distribute them regularly to all the directors and asks for a volunteer to undertake this essential part of the work, to assist with the smooth running of the organisation.

If you are interested please contact us here

If you wish to join or renew your membership please contact our website www.ila.org.uk

where you can obtain the appropriate membership forms.

Partners – Refurbishment and Improvement Works

For anyone wanting some info on Partners Refurbishment and Improvement Works programme, you can view and download them from here

 

 

 

 

Islington Council cherry picker

Details for the cherry picker that has been purchased ( for islington Council tenants repair – its not been clarified if Partners tenants will benefit). It will be used for appropriate repairs for a mixture of trades dependent on access and the suitability of the work.

Download Spec

Service charge limit for leaseholders of social landlords

New mandatory and discretionary reduction of service charges directions for social landlords came into force on 12 August 2014.

Heres a link to Leases’ article on the recent cap

Here are links to the mandatory and discretionary regs

ILA meet Wed 12th Nov 2014

Islington Leaseholders Association Meeting

on

Wednesday 12th November 2014

in

Islington Town Hall

at

7pm – 9pm

Hosting the meeting: Dr Brian Potter Chairman (ILA)

Guest Speaker: To be advised

Website www.ila.org.uk

Twitter @ilaorguk

Face Book www.facebook.com/IslingtonLeaseholdersAssociation

 

Volunteers wanted

The ILA are looking for a ‘secretary’ to take minutes and distribute them regularly to all the directors and asks for a volunteer to undertake this essential part of the work, to assist with the smooth running of the organisation.  If you are interested please log intohttp://www.ila.org.uk/faqs/contact-form.

 

If you wish to join or renew your membership please contact our website www.ila.org.ukwhere you can obtain the appropriate membership forms.

Dr Potter has asked me to forward onto you all –  Islington Gazette Article 23 Oct 2014. Council’s cherry picker could mean end to scaffold misery please click on the attachment to open.

Solicitor’s frank comments on many social landlords contractor payments

Social landlords don’t know whether contractors are requesting payment for the right amounts, warns Theresa Mohammed in Inside Housing

Put bad practice behind you   

Most social landlords that develop homes have always disapproved of the now outdated practice of failing to pay contractors and subcontractors in a timely manner. They have taken a keen interest in the mechanics of the payment provisions under recent legislation.
Among our clients, we have seen social landlords bending over backwards to engage with contractors’ claims and cost overruns, even when this results in busting the budget for a project.
But this has to some extent gone too far and encouraged contractors to fall back on the old-fashioned claims culture of inflated and unsubstantiated claims for payment, which are difficult to assess with any accuracy. Contractors typically send these payment applications in the form of long spreadsheets of figures, relating to subcontractors. Some social landlords have been paying without checking for mistakes or asking for justification for the amounts requested.
Social landlords increasingly tell us about duplicated invoicing, spurious variations where a contractor claims that the scope of work has changed, the withholding of invoices for long periods of time, failure to follow any of the agreed payment processes, and contractors introducing payment terms or rates that were not agreed.
Lack of management
One of the main reasons for these problems is a distinct lack of senior management in repairs and maintenance contracting, which means costs are incurred and then crudely attributed to various categories of cost, such as preliminaries or planned works, which may or may not be legitimate.
More

(Theresa Mohammed is a contentious construction senior associate at Trowers & Hamlins)

Artcicle from Inside Housing   27 August 2014  http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/home/blogs/put-bad-practice-behind-you/7005264.article

 

Cherrypicking Works

Housing works on scaffolding or works on a cherry picker?

The below photo’s show a viable alternative to miles of scaffolding poles, in place in tenants property for months…at a fraction of the cost/damage and inconvenience to tenants…

The first two photos show a cherry picker in action…and the last one shows the quality of the work (which appears to be quite acceptable…compared to what we are used to in Islington)

Cherry Picker in action 1

Cherry Picker in action 1

Cherry Picker in action 2

Cherry Picker in action 2

Quality of works by Cherry Picker

Quality of works by Cherry Picker

Complaints Process Information

Please read this and see if it affects you.

Complaints_Process_Ombudsman1

Complaints_CH_Charter_housing2

If the answer is yes, please attend the next ILA meeting (on Wednesday in Townhall at 7pm) and ask questions relating to this process of our guest:

The “Adjudicator” of the “Housing Ombudsmen Service”

Dr. B.S. Potter ( Chairman ILA)