Saturday, 29 April 2017

Council to overhaul leaseholder complaints procedure after £210k loss

Islington counts cost of tribunals

Islington Council is set to completely overhaul its procedures for dealing with leaseholder complaints after being forced to write off £210,000 following a tribunal.

The north London council has revealed that it could lose at least another £429,000 in a series of four leasehold valuation tribunals that are due to go ahead this year - roughly 5 per cent of its total estimated annual income from leaseholder service charges.

It decided it had to act after a tribunal ruled in March last year that it was not able to claim £100,000 charges from a group of leaseholders after it carried out major repair work to two blocks of flats in Tremlett Grove. The leaseholders had argued the work was not necessary.

The council wrote off a total of £210,000 following the case after extending the reduction to leaseholders from the two blocks concerned who had not taken part in the tribunal.

The council is now piloting a leaseholder ‘challenge’ process.

This involves getting a senior officer with the homeownership service to investigate leaseholder cost disputes, which will include face-to-face meetings with leaseholders and site inspections.

A report due to be seen by councillors next week states: ‘The aim of creating this dedicated role is to secure a settlement and identify solutions to disputes that avoid the need for the matter to be pursued to the LVT.’

The news emerged a week after Inside Housing revealed that social landlords wrote off at least £2.8 million last year as a result of LVTs.

Islington’s new report also states that the council’s income from leaseholder service charges in 2013/14 is estimated to be £10 million, made up of £7 million for day-to-day charges and £3 million for major works.

But if it lost four cases that are currently with the LVT it would lose at least £429,000.

A spokesperson for Islington Council said: ‘We invest a lot in our homes each year to ensure that they are maintained to a high standard. Now, leaseholders will be involved earlier in discussions around works on their home.

‘In most cases this work is carried out to everyone’s satisfaction. On the rare occasions it isn’t, leaseholders can use our own simple and quick local resolution to disputes.  This can save the uncertainty, time, effort and expense often associated with bringing cases to an LVT.’

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