London Mayor betrays 34 estates over housing ballots

Mayor quietly signs off funding for 34 estates, dodging new ballot rules

At Mayor’s Question Time this week, the Mayor gave me a firm promise not to sign off any new funding for estate demolition while his new policy to require a ballot of residents was out for consultation. But he was concealing the fact he has recently rushed through funding for dozens of controversial schemes, allowing councils and housing associations to dodge his new policy.

The new policy to require ballots was announced on 2 February, with a consultation on the details (such as the size of schemes, who can vote, whether independent organisations should carry them out etc) open until 3 April.

I asked him at MQT this week not to sign off any schemes meanwhile, and he was clear he would not do this, saying: “I will be signing no new funding contracts until the consultation has ended and we’ve published the final guide.”

This seemed quite good. Along with campaigners from many estates across London, and with the support of the Assembly, I’ve been working to change the Mayor’s policy on giving residents a say since his truly appalling draft ‘Good Practice Guide’ to estate regeneration was published in December 2016. A consultation on that draft closed nearly a year ago in March 2017, and the results were that 95 per cent of responders asked for ballots for residents facing demolition.

However,

I have now found out that, all this time, the Mayor has been quietly signing off funding for some of the most controversial estate schemes in London….despite promising in his manifesto to “require that estate regeneration only takes place where there is resident support, based on full and transparent consultation.”

By Sian Berry

Read More

Government’s approach to dangerous Grenfell-style cladding replacement consistent

Grim it may be, but the government’s approach to getting dangerous Grenfell-style cladding replaced on tower blocks certainly appears consistent. Credit: Private Eye, Housing News

 

Click Here

 

Private Eye -High-rise, higher costs

From Private EYE –  Cladding safety, Issue 1462

IT WAS always hopeless optimism on the part of communities secretary Sajid Javid to think wealthy speculators in the freeholds of private blocks of flats would pay to remove Grenfell-type cladding. And so it has proved.

As Eye 1457 reported in November, the Tchenguiz Family Trust, based in the British Virgin Islands, is off to court to dump the £2m cost on 97 leaseholders at Citiscape in Croydon – that’s around £20,000 per flat owner, most on low incomes.

At Heysmoor Heights in Toxteth, Liverpool, where the 98 flats sell for less than £100,000, Abacus Land 4 Ltd, a Guernsey company, is demanding £18,000 from each leaseholder. It is administered by the Long Harbour/Homeground fund of David Cameron’s brother-in-law Will Astor, the heir to the viscountcy. This opens up the spectacle of hard-pushed flat owners, who cannot pay, possibly losing their homes through lease forfeiture to an offshore entity where the beneficial ownership is hidden – and where they may have benefited from tax advantages.

Astor’s spokesman, the former Tory MP turned PR smoothie Adrian Flook, assured the Eye the offshore owners of the freehold to Heysmoor were “exclusively UK-based pension and life insurance funds”. As they are all UK tax-exempt, he added, there are therefore no tax advantages, and registration in Guernsey is for “administrative efficiency” only.

‘Saving its skin’
Flook, who works for Sir Lynton Crosby’s lobbying firm Crosby Textor, also said Abacus had “swiftly and voluntarily” injected £750,000 on to the leaseholders’ service charge – as a loan – to cover interim fire wardens as well as building costs. He claimed that without this generosity the residents would have had to move, which would have been even more expensive.

However, Sebastian O’Kelly of the campaign charity the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, said: “Contrarily, one could say that Abacus has imposed a £750,000 loan and then proceeded to spend it as it chose. This wasn’t philanthropy; the freeholder was saving its skin with the fire authorities.

“Flook’s blather would be more weighty if Astor’s Homeground did not also charge old ladies £50 to keep a cat, and demand £108 to consider a freehold purchase – all familiar ploys in the leasehold game, which Astor spent six years learning at Vincent Tchenguiz’s side.”

To date, 17 freeholders are off to court to let a tribunal decide whether the terms of the leases mean hapless leaseholders have to pick up the tab for removing dangerous cladding.

One particular case would be notably unjust. A vast 980-flat development, New Capital Quay in Greenwich, which also has Grenfell-style aluminium composite material (ACM), was completed by Galliard Homes only four years ago. The freeholder remains Galliard’s own company, Roamquest Ltd.

‘Absolutely clobbered’
Huge sums are being racked up to provide fire marshals, and Galliard is showing every sign that it expects the leaseholders to cough up to remove the cladding that it put up itself. If the cladding and safety costs are as extensive as at Citiscape in Croydon, the total could be as much as £19m.

Local Labour MP Matthew Pennycook told the Commons before Christmas that leaseholders “bought their properties in good faith and bear no responsibility whatever for failures in the building regulations regime, but as things stand they are going to be absolutely clobbered”.

So far, the only freeholder to agree to pay to remove Grenfell-style cladding is Legal & General at the Blenheim Centre/Reflexion site in Hounslow, west London, where the bill may exceed £10m. Unlike Astor’s clients, it has not chosen to hide its ownership.

Elsewhere, Javid’s pleas appear to have fallen on deaf ears. Will we have to wait until it’s too late and the courts have decided the leaseholders are liable before the government intervenes?

Housing Scrutiny – Information on Partners Resident Scrutiny Arrangements Meeting Tuesday 6th February 2018.

Housing Scrutiny-Information on Partners Resident Scrutiny Arrangements Meeting Tuesday 6th February 2018.

In advance of next week’s Housing Scrutiny meeting which will be considering the performance of Partners, please find attached a note submitted by a Partners tenant on the organisation’s resident scrutiny arrangements. This may inform discussions at the meeting.

The meeting will be held on Tuesday 6th February, 2018, at 7.30pm in Committee Room 4. The pre-meeting will be held from 7-pm in Committee Room 3, at Islington Town Hall.

Please click on this link –PartnersResidentScrutinyNote2018.pdf

Inquiry into Local Authority Governance Scrutiny etc

Dear Islington Leaseholders,
Overview and scrutiny in local government inquiry

Dr Potter has asked me to forward this onto you all and has kindly suggested that everybody should reply to this by sending in a written submission….. A.S.A.P…. Deadline = Friday, 10 March 2017

Please click on the link below in BLUE to submit your written submissions.

Dr B.S. Potter Chairman (ILA)

http://www.parliament.uk/business/committees/committees-a-z/commons-select/communities-and-local-government-committee/inquiries/parliament-2015/inquiry6/

MPs launch inquiry into overview and scrutiny in local government

Tuesday, 24 January 2017 14:58

The Communities and Local Government (CLG) Committee has launched a “long-overdue” inquiry into overview and scrutiny in local government.

The committee said it would “consider whether overview and scrutiny arrangements in England are working effectively and whether local communities are able to contribute to and monitor the work of their councils”.

Written evidence is invited on:

Whether scrutiny committees in local authorities in England are effective in holding decision-makers to account

The extent to which scrutiny committees operate with political impartiality and independence from executives

Whether scrutiny officers are independent of and separate from those being scrutinised

How chairs and members are selected

Whether powers to summon witnesses are adequate

The potential for local authority scrutiny to act as a voice for local service users

How topics for scrutiny are selected

The support given to the scrutiny function by political leaders and senior officers, including the resources allocated (for example whether there is a designated officer team)

What use is made of specialist external advisers

The effectiveness and importance of local authority scrutiny of external organisations

The role of scrutiny in devolution deals and the scrutiny models used in combined authorities

Examples where scrutiny has worked well and not so well

The deadline for written submissions is Friday 10 March 2017.

Clive Betts MP, chair of the committee, said: “This inquiry is long overdue. Local authority executives have more powers than ever before but there has not been any review about how effectively the current overview and scrutiny arrangements are working since they were introduced in 2000.

“Local authorities have a considerable degree of discretion when it comes to overview and scrutiny. We will examine these arrangements and consider what changes may be needed to ensure decision-makers in councils and local services are better held to account.”

Overview and scrutiny arrangements were introduced by the Local Government Act in 2000 as a counterweight to increasing decision-making powers of Leaders and Cabinets or directly elected mayors.

The committee said that shortcomings had been exposed, however, following a number of high profile cases, including child sexual exploitation in Rotherham, poor care and high mortality rates at Mid Staffordshire NHS Foundation Trust and governance failings in Tower Hamlets.

ILA meet Wed 08.02.17

Islington Leaseholders Association Meeting

On

Wednesday 8th February 2017

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 into http://www.ila.org.uk/faqs/contact-form.

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

2016 a leasehold review – The worst year for leaseholders ever?

By   https://barcode1966.wordpress.com/

2016 a leasehold review – The worst year for leaseholders ever?

This is a review of some of this year’s developments and how it effects leaseholders, unfortunately it’s not happy reading. It is no exaggeration to say that 2016 has been the worse year to be a leaseholder in recent memory, there is very little to be optimistic about.

Each development has made it more difficult to exert the legal rights given to leaseholders by legislation as well as making the costs of doing so rise significantly.

Court fees

This ridiculous idea was first mooted in 2015 to bring in application fees for the First tier Tribunal to be paid by the applicant and it eventually come into force in 2016.

Now, when you apply to the Tribunal, you must pay £100 and a further £200 to attend a hearing. As the vast majority of applications have to be made by leaseholders against unreasonable freeholders this extra financial burden will be borne mostly by leaseholders.

It could have been much worse though.

The second part of the governments fee plan to pay for the court system was to also include a flat fee of £2,000 per application to be paid by the applicant.

Luckily we were given the chance, through ALEP, to be able to talk to members of the DCLG before they made this final.

I was able to explain in detail how disastrous this would be to leaseholders and how much power it would put in the hands of freeholders enabling them to act even more unreasonably in negotiations.

Thankfully, the DCLG agreed to drop this second part to their proposal of increased fees.

The ‘Mundy’ decision

The much anticipated decision in the Mundy case was handed down in May this year and it has caused a seismic shift in the landscape of lease extensions.

The case, which is eye wateringly complicated, was trying to decide a method of calculating how the short lease of a property, of anything below 80 years, effects the value of it.

The behemoth that is the Wellcome Trust spent a fortune in discrediting Parthenia’s valuation model that looked to make the calculating of this loss of property value scientific and less partisan (and ergo fairer to leaseholders). ‘Accepted’ relativity graphs have always been paid for and pushed through the courts by wealthy freeholders to benefit their interests and this case was no different.

Click here to read more details of the case but it should come as no surprise that the uber rich Wellcome trust won the case adding millions to the value of their portfolio.

This has meant that the cost of extending a lease that has fallen below 80 years has risen dramatically. For example, a flat worth £400,000 with 70 years left to run on the lease will now pay around £8,000 more for a lease extension after this decision.

Good news for the already bloated freeholders but it is a wholly unfair result for leaseholders who find themselves caught in the leasehold trap.

At a valuers seminar I attended a couple of months ago, the normally dour grey-suited freeholder’s valuers were positively clicking their heels and dancing with glee at the thought of all these additional unearned fees.

When someone in the audience pointed out to the valuers on stage how unfair this Mundy decision was to leaseholders, an infamous valuer working for a large and difficult freeholder smirked and said “Life isn’t fair.”

As well as making freeholders even richer this case has caused a hardening of the freeholder’s stance across the board. This means leaseholders will have to attend the Tribunal more often to argue the unfair price demanded and pay both the application fee for doing so as well as huge fees of the professionals ‘defending’ them.

CONSOLS replace with the NLF rate
fullsizeoutput_4cdIn another complex development the government cancelled CONSOLS. This was an index used to value, amongst other things, the premium due to a head lessor for the loss of any ground rent due to them during a lease extension.

They replaced this with the wholly unsuitable National Loan Fund (NLF) which is a daily spot rate calculated on the day the Notice is Served. At its introduction the NLF rate was already considerably lower than the CONSOL rate and it continues to fall in line with the current, unprecedented, deflated interest rates.

This has real financial implications for leaseholders who have a head lessor on their property which has an element of the ground rent due to them. In a case we dealt with earlier this year the amount due to the head lessor under the old CONSOLS rate would have been £4,000 this was calculated to be £12,000 at the time of Notice Serving in September 2015. If we had Served Notice today, the amount due would be closer to £20,000!

Rule 13 wasted costs

A recent decision in the ‘Willow Court v Ms Alexandra’ case tried to make clear the qualifying criteria affecting anyone who wished to apply to have their legal fees paid for by the party who had brought an unnecessary and vexatious case against them at Tribunal.

Although the decision made it clear that this is not something this could be applied for automatically if decision went in your favour, it was only to be used only in ‘exceptional circumstances’.

The decision also stated that these application for costs should not “become a major case in its own right”

The truth is however that early evidence points to freeholders applying for these wasted costs every time they win a case to try to claim back their legal fees but more importantly to ‘teach’ leaseholders a lesson for daring to challenge freeholders in court and deter other leaseholders for going down that same route.

Right to manage by block

There was another inexplicable decision which earlier this year “Triplerose Ltd v Ninety Broomfield Road’ which seemed to go against the very spirit of the Right to Manage legislation.

This new ruling means that a right to manage application must now be done on a block by block basis. If you live on a development which contains four small blocks of flats all owned by the same freeholder, you must now make four separate applications for the right to manage. That’s four separate companies, four sets of directors and, obviously, four sets of fees and costs.

Freeholders already have a considerable collection of ruses to frustrate leaseholders who wish to take control the management of their own buildings, this decision has just added another powerful weapon to freeholders unwilling to let go of the cash cow that is management.

Ground rent scandals

This has been going on for a couple of decadesfullsizeoutput_4cb but it has certainly become big news this year with three different ground rent scandals hitting the headlines.

The first was over dodgy informal lease extension deals offered at Blythe Court in Birmingham. The freeholder there is Martin Paine, of whom Sir Peter Bottomley said ‘is a crook who is turning sleaze in leases into an art form’ at the recent debate on leasehold in Westminster.

Mr Paine sold informal lease extension of 99 years with ground rent doubling every 10 years. On completion, the leaseholders found the 99 years started from when the lease was originally granted, so the length of the lease remained the same but the new ground rent due was £8,000 a year making the flats worthless. Read the full story here.

Taylor Wimpey found themselves with a mountain of negative PR when it was brought to light that they had been selling houses as leasehold, instead of freehold, for the sole purpose of making themselves more profit while plunging their unsuspecting clients into a life time of unnecessary ground rent debt.

The telegraph also ran a story which we have been involved with which was a leasehold flat in Islington where grounds rents starting at £250 per year per flat would grow over the term of the 999-year lease to… £68,719,476,736,000 a year! A bargain.

So what does 2017 have in store for leaseholders?

I hate to be the bearer of more bad news but it looks like the freeholders are going to try to push their advantages even further next year using lower interest rates as a smoke screen to mask their naked greed.

In late 2016 we are already seeing the ‘professionals’ advising the large freeholders to try and argue lower capitalisation rates, which are used to calculate the ground rent due to a freeholder to compensate for the loss of ground rent, than those currently accepted.

An even bigger battle is brewing over the deferment rate which was set by ‘Sportelli’ in 2007. The deferment rate is used to calculate the amount due to a freeholder to compensate them for the reversion of a property. The lower the rate, which is currently 5%, the more you will have to pay the freeholder, a 1% reduction in this rate would have huge financial consequences for leaseholders across the country.

Potentially these will be one of the battle grounds of 2017 as bloated greedy freeholders look to get paid even more for a lease extension from their legally captivated victims the leaseholders.

Is there any good news at all?

unfairFor the first time in over a decade those fine people at the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership were the driving force to secure a debate on leasehold in Parliament a couple of weeks, ago which was a fiery damnation on the state of leasehold in this country.

To finally have political appetite looking at the injustices of this feudal system is a very good thing and may be the tool to fight the coming battles from greedy billionaire freeholders wishing to push their advantages.

With the political appetite comes serious interest from the press looking to expose even more of the dodgy dealings of these wealthy freeholders who live in the shadows while carrying out legal extortion on many millions of leaseholders. I have spent more time talking to the press about various leasehold scams in these last two months than I did for the previous eight years combined. There are some big exposés coming in 2017!

Finally, leaseholders themselves are becoming better informed and educated about leasehold abuses. If you find yourself in an unfair situation with your freeholder, make some noise about it! Contact your local MP and let them know, write to the papers, contact LKP and join the growing army of people demanding that this thousand-year-old feudal system should be ended once and for all.

More at    https://barcode1966.wordpress.com/

ILA meet Wed 11.01.17 – Guest TBC

Islington Leaseholders Association Meeting

On

Wednesday 11h January 2017

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 into http://www.ila.org.uk/faqs/contact-form.

If you wish to join or renew your membership please contact “Support” section of our website ww.ila.org.uk where you can obtain the appropriate membership forms.

Pity that Islington’s Councillors aren’t as concerned about their leaseholders

Please read this letter…

Basically, in a very few words, it outlines many of the problems, and aspirations, associated with being a council leaseholder in the borough of Camden.

In my opinion its content could/should be common to all council leaseholders, regardless of which borough they live in since it forcefully stresses the plight of a deliberately ignored proportion of the electorate…until, of course, the council present us with their grossly inflated charges for substandard work…

I just wish I had written it…

Dr Potter

Chairman: – Islington Leaseholders Association (ILA)

 

 

Report of the Camden Leaseholder Recharges Scrutiny Panel

Cllr Meric Apak (Chair) writes:

I cannot help but speculate whether, before my time as a Councillor, my predecessors have been in this same position, aspiring to resolve leasehold related issues in council housing.

My personal aim through this scrutiny process has been to shine a torch on our failings as shown by the evidence we have collected, learn from this, and make recommendations to unravel this complex tangled mess which we seem to have allowed to fester.

Alas, for too long now we seem to have turned a blind eye to a culture which treats our leaseholders as second class residents – at least that’s the impression I get from my postbag. We need to accept that leasehold tenure in council housing is here to stay and that our leaseholders make a positive contribution to Camden.

Leaseholders are neither an irritating adjunct to council housing nor an ATM machine, and we need to differentiate the ordinary vast majority, from the minority who used the Right-to-Buy scheme for property speculation purposes.

We need to tap into Leaseholders’ knowledge and expertise to help Camden drive costs down, particularly in supervision and management. Services need, particularly in today’s straightened times, to provide value for money and to be comparable with those procured elsewhere in the marketplace, whilst complying with health and safety requirements. Not driving costs down can only result in unjustified charges to leaseholders which will not be recovered, which in turn can only be met by the Housing Revenue Account – thus pushing rents higher. So when we say leaseholders are “subsidised by tenants”, are we not highlighting our own failure?

We need to come up with ingenious methods to successfully engage with and meaningfully involve leaseholders (together with tenants) during the consultation process and convince them from the outset that this process will deliver a high quality service and value for money.

For this to work, there needs to be ‘buy-in’ from leaseholders that the survey and estimated cost of works to be done is worth the paper it’s written on. We then need to execute the agreed work, on time and to the agreed budget. This is obviously a simplification of what is needed – perhaps even a fanciful aspiration some might say.

Our success will be measured by how much culture change we can bring about throughout the officer ranks of the Council. We have a real opportunity to expand the ‘Right First Time’ philosophy, and to instill ‘buy-in’ for this concept right from the very junior member of staff to the most senior manager, and through to external providers and partners involved in delivering services to our leaseholders and tenants.

I would like to extend my thanks to the panel members for assisting me in this process. I would also like to say a special thanks to our Assistant Director Stuart Dilley, who agrees that there does need to be a culture change within the Council. Special thanks also to our committee clerk Vinothan Sangarapillai who has been instrumental in capturing the evidence through his diligent note taking.

But most of all, I am truly grateful to the many leaseholders for the large number of case studies that they have submitted to the Panel and took the time to describe the many harrowing experiences they have endured under the unsatisfactory historic arrangements – thank you.

Meric Apak

 

Context   http://wp.me/PY9zq-Ly

ILA Meet Wed 14.09.16

Islington Leaseholders Association Meeting

On

Wednesday 14th September 2016

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 ww.ila.org.uk where you can obtain the appropriate membership forms.

Councils step up raids on housing budgets

Councils step up raids on housing budgets

4 July 2016 7:30 am | By Keith Cooper ( Inside Housing)

Cash-strapped councils are increasingly drawing cash from their housing budgets to plug gaps in back-office costs, an exclusive Inside Housing investigation reveals.

This significant raid on their Housing Revenue Accounts (HRAs) has been revealed by an analysis of financial figures from 100 council accounts.

HRA cash is derived from rents and service charges paid by tenants and is supposed to be ringfenced for investment in homes.

But town halls are able to use a loophole to use this cash to prop up general funds – by billing HRAs for ‘corporate and democratic core services’, back-office services such as finance and legal which are used by all council departments.

According to our analysis, the 100 councils’ cut the overall budget for these services by almost £90m between 2011/12 and 2014/15. But over the same period they hiked the HRAs’ contribution to this cost by £1.7m.

Just under a quarter of council landlords billed their HRAs for more than 15% of the cost of back-office services in 2014/15. The average contribution across all 100 authorities was 8%.

In extreme cases, councils billed their HRAs for close to half their ‘corporate and democratic core services’ costs.

Reading Council charged its HRA for 54% last year. Islington boosted its housing budget’s share from 38% of its total cost in 2011/12 to 44% in 2014/15. The average contribution in London boroughs was 7%.

While the Chartered Insitute of Housing and Local Government Association declined to comment on these findings, a public finance expert said they raised questions about the fairness of charges.

Ken Lee, chair of the housing panel at the Chartered Institute of Public Finance and Accountancy, said: “As social tenants tend to be the poorest and are a minority in society, is it right that they should be supporting the majority in the community?” he asked. “We should be looking at strengthening [the HRA] ringfence and bring it up to date.”

Checks on the patency of the ‘ringfence’ intended to legally protect housing resources, had been weakened since the abolition of the Audit Commission, Mr Lee added. “District auditors were keen on checking this kind of thing when the Audit Commission was around,” he said. “This role has now gone to private auditors.”

Islington said council housing represented 37% of total households in the borough. Reading declined to comment.