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Service Charges meeting 20 July

July 20 @ 6:00 pm - 7:30 pm

This meeting is only relevant to leaseholders of properties on Kings Crescent

Minutes

Meeting held: 6pm – 7:30pm

In person Hackney Showroom, 4 Murrain Road, N4 2BN

 

Attendees:

Hackney Representatives:

Led by Judith Morrison (LBH Head of Leasehold & RTB Services)

Gilbert Stowe – LBH Head of Tenant & Leasehold services

Angela Okoh – LBH Energy Team

Darren Attreed – LBH Waste Management

Residents:

Co-chaired by Phil M

Emley (minutes & Chair of TRA)

Along with 15 other residents (names removed for web version)

  Item Person Comments from agenda, notes of meeting and actions
  Welcome & introduction Hackney Rep/

Phil M

Reminder of scope of the meeting & that specific queries will be more effectively discussed in surgeries.

…..

 

Phil intro – today is to discuss wider issues but then there will be individual surgeries available next week for residents to discuss specific points relevant to their property

 

Hackney staff invited to introduce themselves:

 

Judith’s team deals with purchasing of properties, ongoing service charges and section 20 notices, billing and other sales type activities.

See letter for details of surgeries. Make appointment for 1:1

 

Angela – energy team

 

Gilbert – gave into to his role leading various teams involved in housing

 

Darren – role covers refuse, street cleaning. Happy to answer questions in early part of meeting but then will need to leave.

 

(Anthony Ramsey was not present but his role was referred to in the meeting – he is Annette’s replacement and the new Housing Officer for Kings Crescent anthony.ramsay@hackney.gov.uk to contact him directly but usually best to address queries to the team email: neighbourhood@hackney.gov.uk)

 

Focus on questions to Darren relating to waste management:

 

Chutes – report any issues to cleaner.estates@hackney.gov.uk Anthony to check in with cleaners on regular basis

Report to Anthony and cleaning team. If repairs team is needed to unblock, then cleaner estates team will bring in repairs team.

 

Bins sometimes not left under the chute after being emptied, so rubbish goes on the floor of the bin store

 

Bin store not getting cleaner, used to be power washed fairly regularly. Stairs not been cleaned regularly.

 

Service level agreements are different between older and newer blocks (newer blocks pay more and have a more regular schedule)

 

Older blocks

20-day ‘check and rectify’ cleaner with agreement on the older blocks – stairs, walls, communal windows etc  (residents pointed out this is not happening, Darren will look into the issues)

 

Darren discussed various statistics for the items reported by cleaners: Over the last year 1800 reports of drugs, urine, vomit etc takes up 20% of time, plus waste bags, furniture dumpling. Plus contractor waste, lights not working, rough sleepers etc.

 

 

How do you look into what happens next e.g. if an issue is reported, how is it dealt with? Some can be cleaned at the time, some have to be reported e.g. to contractors that leave a mess or to the repairs team. Trying to gather more data to keep track and target. Free bulky waste service

 

On corner of Dathchworth/Weston, have been boxes there for weeks.

 

Darren will look into standards. Can contact him directly and please report issues to cleaner.estate email. Darren left at 18.28

1 Discussion of annual rising service charge costs / variation between estimates and actuals.   To specifically cover – given challenges residents will have with rising living costs, what is Hackney doing to avoid costs spiralling up unnecessarily and what help is available for residents if leaseholders are struggling to afford increases service charges.

What actions do Hackney Council take to ensure residents get value for money from their service charges? (eg. When choosing repair companies, checking quality of work)

…..

 

Phil introduction – how are service charges decided and managed. On the ground residents feel and can see levels of service going down across the board, on all line items. Yet the charges increase each year. Residents have been questioning this.

 

Judith – various heads of charge (cleaning, energy etc). One issue is that estimates are issued in March, but actuals come in September for the previous April to March), so always an 18 month lag. Use average of 3-5 previous years for each head of charge for the fixed costs. (Billing cycle). Plus repair costs will vary from year to year as they are responsive and it depends on what happened and what repairs were needed.

 

Can only charge up to £250 for a repair without consulting leaseholders (section 20).

 

Reminder to attend 1:1 surgery if you have specific questions about your service charges. Time to pay and hardship can be discussed there if needed.

 

Resident question: – would it not be fairer if all the blocks paid the same for communal cleaning rather than the newer blocks getting a better service than the older blocks?

Judith: Units within each bloc spreads the cost differently. Can get a more detailed breakdown. But ultimately residents just want the standard of service that they pay for.

 

Resident: Main entrance door is broken in Weston – apparently this invalidates home insurance. Judith states that is news to her, but Emley noted this issue has been raised many times previously when the newer block doors have broken. Also, Weston’s intercom system is still broken. TRA raised this issue via Anthony several weeks ago, he acknowledged seeing the issue for himself and raising the repair request. EP to follow up on this with Anthony

 

Phil – we are doing our bit as residents to report issues but then things don’t happen, don’t see results. Need to ask for case number and to ask how long things take. Residents spend hours on the phone on hold, but then no follow up or acknowledgement that the repair is fixed. Overall, we just want to know what’s wrong!

 

Gilbert response – housing offers should be overseeing this

Various contractors involved in repairs, various departments involved. Disappointed his team is not delivering on that. Mayor and Steve Waddington now involved to help ensure obligations are met. There are ‘contractor managers’ in Hackney, they need to be managing. There has been a breakdown in the lines of communication. They are given a date that a repair will be done, but don’t get told if it has been done or not, have to chase etc so know what residents are going through. Will hold counterparts to account to ensure adequate responses.

 

Service charges – invoices collated by finance team, calculated. If it is obvious that things shouldn’t be paid, they won’t charge it or address it on the actuals. They recharge what they are given by the other teams.

 

Group of leasehold have an advance copy of the actuals prior to release to double check. Looking for new people to join this group. Alice was part of this group before but didn’t receive it last time. Previously she did give feedback and it wasn’t acknowledged for 12 months. The resident review would be for the resident’s block and the estate charges in general. Judith looking for volunteers. Alice also proposed that resident’s shouldn’t be having to do that. We are paying for this service! Other residents reiterated this point.

 

Wael – value for money is the question.

 

Emley – 2 issues. One issue is that there are mistakes that happen on the SC bills, one example is older blocks being charged for heating, however we are not on the central system like the newer blocks. So limited faith in the actual numbers that are being produced by the Leasehold team. Plus, there is the wider concern around value for money as we are paying for services that are not being adequately provided.

 

Gilbert response – housing manager will be following up. One potential solution would be to ask housing officer (Anthony) to be involved in checking the final bills as he will have familiarity with the issues that have taken place.

 

Having to rebuild everything since the cyberattack. New system will be able to check repairs in real time. Inform residents in real time so there will be a chance to challenge in the moment. But the system is not up and running yet.

 

There have been a few instances of overcharging – a resident stated that she has been paying her service charges but also receiving threatening letters from Hackney and solicitors stating she is in arrears. Judith acknowledges that this has happened to some people. Will be addressed and can be discussed in individual 1:1 surgery appointments.

 

Resident: why has it been given to external solicitor to deal with arrears – especially if the data is wrong. Judith: There are 3 stages of arrears before going to external solicitor. Systems are not fool proof at this time.

 

Question – if a repair has not been carried out properly does Hackney pay muntiple times for repeated call outs and pass that on to us, or do they challenge the contractors and refuse to pay for the work that was not done properly?

Gilbert – Contract manager does challenge contracts, but he will check that this is happening.

2 Specific concerns on costs in service charges:    
2 (a) Problems with lift maintenance & associated costs   There have been issues with the lift (and entrance doors) over many years – are Hackney comfortable the original lift was of an appropriate quality?

 The lease arrangement requires Hackney to keep the building in “good and substantial repair & condition”. How does Hackney define what good and substantial repair and condition look like?

 

Lifts not installed properly. Plus window next to lift panel, when heats up the lift shuts down. Known about this since 2018.

 

Challenging Hackney on the 9th schedule of the Leaseholder agreement (originally raised Nov 2021)– does Hackney fulfil the contractual safety and security with regard for the lift and main doors.

Hackney staff decline to answer this and say they are looking into solutions.

Wael challenges this and says that a solution has been known for a long time but nothing done. The windows next to the top of the lift and control panel need a covering to reflect the light and stop the temperature of the control panel rising when it is sunny. Why has this not been done?

 

Residents did some calculations and found that the total cost to repair lifts is way more than to just buy new ones.

 

Emley – it is frustrating because these issues were being raised in Resident Steering Group with the Regeneration Team years ago, while the lifts were still in the defects period and should have been resolved by Higgins.

 

Hackney needs a culture of responsibility.

 

 

Angela: it is evident as officers that we have missed some areas. Need to go back and have a look. Mayor, Steve and Gilbert have promised to take action with regard to the systemic issues, email void, contractor repeated visits, costs escalating, value for money etc. Action: e.g if contractor has to reattend, Hackney (and residents) should only be  charged once. More actions needed.

 

Gilbert: Anthony Ramsey is our housing officer, will be writing out to residents to introduce himself. Setting up a new system to track repairs. Will be increasing presence on estate. Officially should be here monthly but will be coming weekly. Gilberts team are ultimately responsible for managing the estate. Other estates have been removed from Anthony’s remit so that he can focus on KC.

 

Steve Waddington is ultimately responsible and committed to making things better. Repairs team do have to contract out certain things e.g. security doors, intercom etc where the Hackney team don’t have expertise. Large doors in new blocks are an issue – look nice but break easily.

 

Resident challenge: Hackney doesn’t manage contractors, doesn’t manage your management team. Then residents pay the price for that. Does Hackney feel it meets it’s contractual obligation towards Leaseholders?

 

Judith: 9th schedule are things that are done at homeowner expense.

 

Wael: The Service Charges are the homeowners expense!!

 

Gilbert: says that Hackney does meet it’s contractual obligation – eventually! But acknowledges things need to be better.

 

Phil: All sick of words – need actions now!

What are the actions:

·        TRA pass repairs onto Anthony so he can chase

·        Anthony to touch base regularly with TRA (Emley, David etc)

 

Challenge – contractors are not good

Question regarding when input might be needed by residents to check actuals, if they are due out in September presumably the checking will need to be done soon?

6 months April to September to gather all of the data regarding invoices etc. Chance to check what has been done.

Residents can help with that additional layer of scrutiny. Judith to confirm when draft estimates will be available to check

 

Any residents wanting to be involved in checking actuals email judith.morrison@hackney.gov.uk

 

Solutions:

Co-actively work together

Possible to put the draft actuals on the website and offer a chance for feedback to leasehold team – EP to follow up with JM

2 (b) New hot water/heating energy charge   JS – raised with senior management and hope to sort out before meeting
2 (c) Inadequacy of repairs descriptions   JS – currently subject to a formal complaint by a KC leaseholder and being investigated

 

3 LBH disputes and escalation procedure   (Discussed within previous topics)
4 Discussion of new procedures by LBH to improve leaseholder services   (Discussed within previous topics)
5 Any other business   Surgeries: book a 1:1, in person in the service centre or virtual. Asked LBH for option to attend in person in H.S – this is a possibility.

Neighbours in the same block are welcome to have an appointment together if that is wanted by residents.

Can leave name and contact details with Judith to arrange a surgery.

  Finish   Meeting closed at 7.40pm

 

(Minutes taken by Emley and approved by Phil, Wael and Judith prior to wider circulation)

Details of the surgeries from the letter sent to Leaseholders:

We are also offering homeowners the option of booking a 30 minute surgery appointment with Leasehold Services between 25th and 30th July 2022 to discuss any individual service charge queries.

To book a surgery appointment, please write to Joseph Starkey on joseph.starkey@hackney.gov.uk or by phone on 020 8359 2299. Please ensure the following details are provided in your email:

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Your availability between 25th and 30th June 2022.
  • A brief summary of the issues you wish to discuss

Previous Information

Agenda

Meeting to be led by Judith Morrison (Head of Leasehold & RTB Services)

Co-chaired by Phil McKee (Leaseholder on Kings Crescent Estate)

 

  Item Time Person Comments
Welcome & introduction 18:05 Hackney Rep/

Phil M

Reminder of scope of the meeting & that specific queries will be more effectively discussed in surgeries.
1 Discussion of annual rising service charge costs / variation between estimates and actuals. 18:10 To specifically cover – given challenges residents will have with rising living costs, what is Hackney doing to avoid costs spiralling up unnecessarily and what help is available for residents if leaseholders are struggling to afford increases service charges.

What actions do Hackney Council take to ensure residents get value for money from their service charges? (eg. When choosing repair companies, checking quality of work)

2 Specific concerns on costs in service charges:

 

 

18:30
2 (a) Problems with lift maintenance & associated costs There have been issues with the lift (and entrance doors) over many years – are Hackney comfortable the original lift was of an appropriate quality?

The lease arrangement requires Hackney to keep the building in “good and substantial repair & condition”. How does Hackney define what good and substantial repair and condition look like?

2 (b) New hot water/heating energy charge JS – raised with senior management and hope to sort out before meeting
2 (c) Inadequacy of repairs descriptions JS – currently subject to a formal complaint by a KC leaseholder and being investigated

 

3 LBH disputes and escalation procedure 19:00
4 Discussion of new procedures by LBH to improve leaseholder services 19:10
5 Any other business 19:20
Finish 19:30    


Information from Hackney about the meeting:

Dear Homeowner,

We are writing to invite you and all Kings Crescent Estate leaseholders to attend a general meeting with senior Council Housing Services staff on 20th July 2022 to discuss service charge related matters.

This email also invites you to book a surgery appointment with Leasehold Services during the week commencing 25th July 2022 if you wish to discuss your personal service charge account with an officer one-to-one.

 

The general meeting with senior Council Housing Services staff will take place from 6pm to 7:30pm at Hackney Showroom, 4 Murrain Rd, London N4 2BN  and will be co-chaired by the Kings Crescent Enhanced Tenants & Residents Association (ETRA).This meeting has been arranged further to the ETRA notifying us of issues of concern to Kings Crescent Estate homeowners in relation to  the services we provide on the estate for which charges apply. This meeting will  provide an opportunity for you and other homeowners to discuss these issues directly with senior staff.

 

We are also offering homeowners the option of booking a 30 minute surgery appointment with Leasehold Services between 25th and 30th July 2022 to discuss any individual service charge queries.

 

To book a surgery appointment, please write to Joseph Starkey on joseph.starkey@hackney.gov.uk or by phone on 020 8359 2299. Please ensure the following details are provided in your email:

  • Your name
  • Your address
  • Your availability between 25th and 30th June 2022.
  • A brief summary of the issues you wish to discuss

 

Please note that surgery appointments will take place virtually over Google Meet. If you are unable to participate in a surgery virtually, please notify us when making your appointment and we will arrange a telephone appointment.

 

We very much look forward to hearing from you.

Please note you must respond to service.charges@hackney.gov.uk and not my personal email to ensure you receive a response to your enquiry.

 

Kind regards,

 

Leasehold Services and RTB

London Borough of Hackney

Tel. No. 020 8356 2299

service.charges@hackney.gov.uk

www.hackney.gov.uk

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Details

Date:
July 20
Time:
6:00 pm - 7:30 pm
Event Category:

Organiser

Hackney Leasehold Team
Phone:
02083562299
Email:
service.charges@hackney.gov.uk

Venue

Hackney Showroom Space
4 Murrain Road
London, N4 2BN United Kingdom
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