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Service Charges Meeting
June 30, 2021 @ 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm
AGENDA & Questions for JM
Questions to Judith Morrison for 30th June Service Charge Meeting with residents of King’s Crescent Estate, N4
(Main focus of questions relate to newer buildings)
- Judith Morrison
- Response to questions
- Any other business
Resident Questions related to Service Charges
- Can you explain how the service charges actual vs estimation works? For example, how can you provide estimations for the upcoming year before you have provided residents with the actuals for the year just passed? 10 minutes
- Why does the charge vary so greatly year on year? The charge has doubled since we moved in 3 years ago with no evident improvement in services. For example, one resident has seen their charges increase 40% in 3.5 years – from £160/month in 2017 to £220/month in 2021. 10 minutes
- Please fully explain the recent mishaps in service charge direct debits. It is not a coincidence that there was system failure two months in a row and this can’t be related to the cyber attack. What happened and who was responsible? 10 minutes
- Tender process – at no point has it ever been explained how HC looks for value. All we’ve been told is that you just pay bills and pass them on to us. This is why we’ve had really high electricity bills year on year. Can we get more transparency on the vendor selection process? For each support contract per year? 5 minutes
- Will we be reimbursed for the services not received last year, e.g. gardening and maintenance? But the most obvious one is window cleaning. We pay for window cleaning and you try and get unqualified cleaners to do this job. And cleaning itself is a big issue – mainly because you require the cleaning staff do so much in so little time, with little equipment to do the job properly. 10 minutes
- How much money is in the reserve fund and when is the time that we can stop paying into it? Is it comparable to other private housing in London and can you provide evidence? We are legally obligated to see evidence of this as it is a protected fund and they are not allowed to dip into it. 5 minutes
- No one at HC has ever responded to residents’ requests on excessive electric charges in Kimpton Court. 5 minutes
- Specific question on early overcharge issue:
I obtained the details from Ewalina Sorbjan of all charges for both the estate and our block, Sandon Court, for the period April 2017 to March 2018. Note that the block was completed in late November 2017 and thus only became habitable then.
Of the 68 work orders paid for during this period, 32 of them have a recorded date of payment of 1/4/17, and six of them have a recorded date of payment of 6/4/17, for work which presumably and sometimes explicitly took place in the previous financial year (e.g., work order 01599070 Capital Roads & Footways 2016-2017 Phase 1, payment dated 6/4/17 and costing £9166.26). The recording of the payments on these dates was convenient for Hackney Council because Hackney Council apparently believed it meant that the tenants who moved in during the financial year 1/4/17 – 31/3/18 became liable for the cost (I presume the recording of the 6/4/17 dates of payment was performed by someone who thought that Hackney Council’s financial year is the same as the usual one, which in itself is extremely suspicious).
It seems that Hackney Council have deliberately recorded these dates of payment (or waited until these dates to make the payment) in order to pass the costs on to new residents, in order to exploit the Agreed Terms of the lease, Clause 3, Payment of Management Charges to the Lessor (A). Perhaps somewhat fortunately for us, our block was completed eight months late, so we only incurred a third of these charges.
However, in order for this clause of the lease to apply, the costs and expenses must have been incurred within that financial year: given that invoices are generally submitted after work is complete, and given that my previous request for the dates of the completed works was never responded to, I can only presume that these dates are incorrect and were entered for the purpose of overcharging new residents – 38 out of 68 falling on these essential days would be an uncanny coincidence. To counter this accusation, Hackney Council should provide the previously requested evidence, should it exist, for all 32 payments that fall on 1/4/17 and for all six that fall on 6/4/17. Hackney Council may argue that this clause of the Agreed Terms allows costs from a previous year to be carried over to the following year if the amount remains unpaid. However, since in the year 2016/17 the lease did not exist, such charges cannot remain unpaid, since they were not the responsibility of new residents. This is likely why Hackney Council recorded the payment dates as they did.
Furthermore, all 20 block-specific charges were paid on 1/4/17 (besides cleaning, which is not dated but remains far too high for three hours work per week). The block was only certified as habitable in late November 2017, so any payments made simply can not form part of the management charges as these were activities (if they are real) that would have been covered by Higgins during the building of the block. Residents can not be expected to pay for the preparation and completion of a building for which they each paid over half a million pound to move into as new.
What does Ms Morrison have to say about the legitimacy of these charges and why was the requested evidence never supplied, despite several requests? 15 minutes