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URGENT CALL: Area Board Meeting on 4th December 

Lambeth Homeowners Association (LHA)

If you are an Area Board TRA rep or a Lambeth 500+ rep (or you know someone who is) irrespective whether Tenant or Homeowner please contact us/ask them to contact us via our link by clicking here

We want to enable as many attending reps as possible to be able to talk with each other and with us prior to the meeting on 4 December.

The Council have refused to name reps until we agree the Constitution!

Area Board Constitution/Terms of Reference (ToR) Meeting
Irrespective of whether you are a rep or not please come along on to the
Area Boards meeting on the 4th December from 7-9pm
Lecture Theatre
International House Canterbury
Crescent SW9 7QE

The purpose of this meeting is to review the way the 3 Area Boards (North, Central and South) will operate and we have just heard that the Council intends that ‘The draft Constitutions of the Area Boards will be determined by the Board members’ at this meeting. This is, in our view, far too soon. There has been no discussion on this crucial document and there are many institutional and practical deficiencies.

The Area Boards are the core Resident Engagement mechanism under the new structure that Lambeth Council has imposed on us. We, the LHA have assessed the proposals in the new Constitution and have found them deeply problematic. Key points are in the box below and more details in the next paragraph.

You can see the Council’s proposal and our objections in full on our website. In a nutshell, they are highly managed by Lambeth Council to stop us raising any issues of importance to us and membership is very tightly controlled in ways that will prevent many of us qualifying if we take issue with Lambeth Council bills or ways of operation. Further background can be found by following the links from our article The Rush to control Area Boards’ on the front page of our website.

We are concerned that the Council intends to try to force through a vote to endorse the Constitution on 4th December. We must not let them do this. The Constitution is very much against our interests.

If you agree with our critique please write to Mark Howarth (MHowarth@lambeth.gov.uk) and Sue Foster (sfoster1@lambeth.gov.uk) telling them:

  • that you object to the speed these important issues are being forced through;
  • that you object to the content of the current proposed Constitution; and
  •  that you support the LHA views on more equitable representation and a more considered, consultative approach in drawing up these key issues.

Contact us by clicking here or at: lambethhomeownerschair@gmail.com


AREA BOARDS
Our Objections: Some Key Points

  • The Constitution is totally non-democratic, TRA reps can’t even bring up issues from their own TRAs and no substitutes are allowed if a TRA nominated rep cannot make it
  • The Council are pulling all the strings. They set what the Board can do, and who can be on the Board
  • There is no scrutiny over the so called “pilot” structure and at the moment it is scheduled to continue indefinitely, ignoring it is an 18-month pilot.
  • The whole process is very rushed – short notice key document consideration and no discussion on when meetings might be held.
  • There is a token mention monitoring and evaluation, but nothing tangible, no criteria for evaluation and no specific timings when it will happen.

Lambeth Homeowners’ Association (“LHA”)

November 2017

Information guidance from the LHA Committee
Major works – Section 20 and Section 20B
As we all know, for much of the last few years residents of Lambeth have been having major works done to their properties. Had these works been done properly there would be no need for this note.

Regrettably, and demonstrated by the many communications that the LHA has been receiving, these works have been very badly procured, consulted and executed and despite the many complaints bills for huge sums have been landing on residents’ doormats.

What to do?

One route (and for many this may be necessary if you are to avoid paying the excessive service charges Lambeth is imposing on you to recoup the cost of the works) is to take the matter to the Tribunal and to face the daunting task of demonstrating the unreasonableness of the charges. This is a huge and difficult and stressful and time consuming and expensive process.

Which is why, if the facts fit there is another route. The Leasehold Advisory Service (LEASE)[1] explains as follows:

‘Under Section 20B of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, a landlord has 18 months within which to notify you of service charge costs being incurred or demand payment from you. If they fail to either notify you or demand payment within 18 months they will not be able to recover the charges from you.’

The courts have ruled that costs are “incurred” on the earlier of Lambeth paying for the works or Lambeth receiving an invoice for the works. Typically, it will be when Lambeth receive the invoice as it is very unlikely to pay before it gets the invoice. The section is quoted in full below.

“20B Limitation of service charges: time limit on making demands.

“(1)        If any of the relevant costs taken into account in determining the amount of any service charge were incurred more than 18 months before a demand for payment of the service charge is served on the tenant, then (subject to subsection (2) ), the tenant shall not be liable to pay so much of the service charge as reflects the costs so incurred.
“(2)        Subsection (1) shall not apply if, within the period of 18 months beginning with the date when the relevant costs in question were incurred, the tenant was notified in writing that those costs had been incurred and that he would subsequently be required under the terms of his lease to contribute to them by the payment of a service charge.”

Lambeth has already in some cases acknowledged that it “may” not have provided the necessary notification, which must be in writing.

So far as billing by Lambeth and notifications pursuant to section 20B(2) are concerned, reference needs to be made to the odd thing that Lambeth did some weeks or even a couple of months ago.

They, without any prior notification of any sort, suddenly added to the on-line accounts of many Leaseholders a lot of items which were evidently amounts that Lambeth decided were owing by Leaseholders in respect of the major works done to their block or estate or house.

Some Leaseholders noticed this and objected. It is not clear whether Lambeth have taken down these items which should not have been there as no invoice had been sent by Lambeth in respect of them. Clearly, they should not have been there. Many Leaseholders do not have access to their online accounts so will not have seen any entries that may have been made on their accounts. The point to note with regard to these entries is that they are not notifications for purposes of section 20B(2).

If you are considering making use of section 20B(2) or if you have other reasons for wanting not to pay or to pay less than the Lambeth invoice specifies and if you are needing to decide which payment option offered by Lambeth to use, then when notifying Lambeth of your chosen option you should do so under protest. If you have already notified Lambeth of your chosen option and did not do so under protest, you should now notify Lambeth of your protest.

Your protest might be along the lines of:

I am notifying you of my payment option but do so under protest as I consider the amount of your invoice to be excessive and also late as you have not complied with the time limits set out in Section 20B of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. I accordingly reserve all my rights with regard to your invoice number [  ] dated [    ] 2017.

You should also write to Lambeth explaining both why you consider their invoice to be excessive for the works actually done and why you consider Lambeth to be timed out by section 20B. If you consider that you have a strong section 20B case you may initially want to focus on that, stating that you consider that Lambeth has neither invoiced you nor demanded payment within 18 months of Lambeth being invoiced by the contractor. You should also ask for copies of the Invoices that Lambeth received from the contractor. We would just warn you that Lambeth have in several cases failed to provide copies of the invoices. This is likely to be a long battle.

Whether a protest after choosing an option will work for you will depend on the option you have chosen and what you may have agreed with Lambeth about your chosen option. You may need some advice on this aspect and on other aspects. LEASE (see footnote below for information about them and click here to go to their website) are a good starting point. You will need to book a telephone appointment to speak to one of their advisers.

END

[1] On their website LEASE explain who they are as follows: “LEASE was set up in 1994 to provide free information, initial advice and guidance to members of the public about residential leasehold and park homes law. We have been providing this valuable service for more than 20 years. As the first point of contact for leaseholders, we are independent and impartial and all of our advisers are legally qualified.”


 

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