If central government money is being spent on improving local authority housing stock then leaseholders should not have to pay more than £10,000 … or, £15,000 in London.
But it is an open question how many leaseholders the scheme will help as central government funding for local housing refurbishment dwindles. (See comments below)
Many of these leasehold owners are former council tenants who have exercised their right to buy – only to be hit by eye-watering bills for the building’s refurbishment.
Pickles’ proposals come in the form of a consultation and he is seeking the opinions of leasehold owners.
The Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, which has been contacted many times over this issue, is offering to organise a delegation of local authority leasehold owners to the DCLG.
It is vitally important when dealing with government that a clear, reasoned argument is put forward – especially over issues concerning leasehold, for which the DCLG has a poor track record.
It is also possible to send in views by email to email@example.com
But please copy in to LKP.
Pickles’s interest in this issue was sparked by the case of Florence Bourne, 93, who her family claim died tormented by the thought of owing £50,000 for the refurbishment of her block in Newham, north London. This was reported in the Daily Express.
Pickles referred to the case at last week’s Tory party conference. Newham had “guesstimate” repair costs of £50,000 for a new roof, but a subsequent LVT accepted a surveyor’s report that the roof might have lasted another 40 years.
In announcing the proposal, Pickles said: “Ministers are well aware of the profound effect high charges for major works can have on leaseholders.
“Recent press reports have highlighted isolated cases of wholly unjustified demands on leaseholders.
“I want to be sure that all such future Government funded programmes come with protections for local authority leaseholders.
“Of course, leaseholders must pay their fair share of costs to maintain their homes, and they should pay as required under the terms of their lease but I, and the Minister for Housing, do want to limit any excessive claims on these owner occupiers.”
It is ironic that this announcement by Pickles comes in the same month that Southwark council is seeking the forfeiture of the home of Fareida Chandoo, 60, an NHS secretary for failing to pay £40,000 for capital improvements.
Farieda owns a three-bedroom flat in Camberwell in a council owned block of 29 flats.
Southwark spent £1.2 million refurbishing the block, including a new roof, and Farieda ended up with a £40,000 bill.
“I am an honest person and I am willing to pay my share, but not £40,000,” she says.
During the works she claims leasehold owner contributions were supposedly capped at £10,000, which she has offered to pay.
“I received very little benefit from these works and some harm. All the tenants flats were refurbished.
“I wanted this to go to arbitration, but Southwark refused and insisted on court action. Other leasehold owners have had the money paid by their mortgage company, but I refuse to pay this sum for benefits I have not received.”
It appears Mr Pickles has a first case to consider during his consultation, which ends on November 18.