Stevenage Borough Council’s costly refurb of 550 flat blocks is ‘incredibly bad practice’
- Credit: Archant
With council leaseholders each facing bills of up to £20,000 for the major revamp of Stevenage flats, a woman has come forward as a leasehold expert to offer advice in the face of what she calls “incredibly bad practice”.
Stevenage Borough Council's Major Refurbishment Contract includes all 550 low and medium rise flat blocks in the town and began last year with the Old Town, Longmeadow and Roebuck areas. It is due to end in 2023 and could include roof replacements and structural repairs.
Widespread concern from leaseholders who have received huge estimates includes being overcharged - quoting £1,000 to replace one window, £5,000 for a bin store and £3,250 for a fence.
Landlord Scott Billings owns five flats affected and could be facing a total bill of over £100,000. He said: "I've just had one estimate of £22,500. Can you imagine my horror at the thought of this demand being multiplied by five?"
Scott says he has been aware of the impending works for two years, but never expected the bill to be so high. "I was thinking about £6,000 to £8,000 each," he said. "This estimate is astronomical. There are a lot of jobs on there that should have been picked up over the years and covered by the service charge."
A woman who says she has worked in leasehold for 10 years said: "It's incredibly bad practice to request all these works in one go. They should have started with roofs, then in five years time moved onto electrics and so on. Bad practice has legal implications, which I'm going to look into."
Offering advice to leaseholders, she said: "Read your lease and check if you're paying into a reserve fund. If you are, this should pay towards any works.
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"You have the right to see all the costs and how these were reached. They cannot charge for works not specified in your lease, so check which items are your responsibility.
"Seek advice from Citizens Advice, or team up with other leaseholders and ask a solicitor to look at your case collectively - they'll usually offer a reduced fee.
"Lots of knowledgable leaseholders with a solicitor behind them can't be ignored."
Councillor Jeannette Thomas, executive member for housing, said: "We understand nobody likes to receive large bills. We can't comment on individual cases but are happy to talk to any leaseholder concerned about their estimate or final bill. They can contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org or call us on 01438 242242."