In TNRA's Spring 2012 newsletter, TNRA vice-chair Tim Horsler reported on the latest developments for long leaseholders in Trinity Church Square blocks 4–6, 9–11, 45–47 and 59–63 and Shaftesbury House.
Following continual pressure from TNRA over the previous 18 months, Douglas & Gordon (D&G) were finally given three months’ notice of the termination of their contract by Nelson Bakewell/Capita in September 2011.
Bray Property Services Ltd (DBS), owned and run by Dan Bray, have been appointed to take their place. Dan is also responsible for the management of the Trinity Village office, which handles all the other tenancies on the Estate. In theory this should prove beneficial for all leaseholders, in that there will be one senior manager responsible for all properties with the potential to take a unified approach to all management matters. In contrast to recent years, when the long leasehold agents were based off-site and only contactable (and with difficulty at that!) by email, phone or letter), Dan will be on site each week, with one day specifically set aside to deal with long leasehold matters.
A separate company, Aspect Property Management, will handle all accounting matters on behalf of DBS, and initial indications are that they are working well together.
D&G had broken all their previous commitments to provide key information on time, and the termination of their contract made things worse. It is only after considerable effort that Dan and Aspect were able to obtain documentation and records from D&G round about the year-end. As a result of this, and after checking relevant details, DBS have finally been able to send out (or will very shortly do so) the following:
Dan has indicated his willingness to attend meetings to explain and answer questions from each long leasehold block about all such matters, including the timing of demands for funds to meet scheduled internal and external repair and redecoration works.
Following a ruling last year by the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT), it has finally been recognised that the owners of some properties in this block were being asked unfairly to meet redecoration and repair costs for common parts to which they had no access at all and from which they derived no direct benefit (see below). As a result of this decision, all the owners of apartments in the block have recently received a letter from Forsters (Trinity House’s solicitors) explaining these matters and setting out the revised apportionment of such charges over all 14 properties involved. A copy of the LVT decision can be downloaded from the TNRA website: www.tnra.net.
Initial signs are that the provision of information on management, repair and accounting matters by DBS is a considerable improvement over what long leaseholders unfortunately had come to expect from previous managing agents. Dan’s personal knowledge of past problems (arising from his very helpful attendance at my quarterly meetings with D&G over the course of the last three years) has undoubtedly helped him understand what needs to be done to improve matters. Especially over the past nine months he has made it his business to keep me informed of developments (especially during the difficult autumn period when D&G were still nominally in charge and Dan was just as frustrated as we were) and to seek my advice and comments on communication and other matters in general.
If you have queries or comments about long leasehold matters, contact Tim.
Ref: LON 00BE/LSC/2011/0275
In a case against the leaseholders of the flats in 59-63 Trinity Church Square on 6 July 2011, the LVT decided that the leaseholders of flats which have no access to the internal common parts are exempted from contributing to the costs of redecorating those common parts. However, they are liable to contribute to the fire prevention works on the same basis as their contributions to other elements of the service charge, namely a fair and proper proportion as determined by the lease.
To download a copy of the LVT's decision (which should eventually be available on the website of the Residential Property Tribunal Service), click here.
Trinity House's solicitors, Forsters, have advised that there is no necessity to make formal changes to leases to reflect the LVT's ruling. Nevertheless, TNRA advises all long leaseholders who fall into this category to ensure that Douglas & Gordon officially acknowledge that they will no longer be charged for such costs.
At TNRA's instigation an open meeting with Ross Whitham of Douglas & Gordon took place on the evening of 23rd November 2010.
This gave long leaseholders the opportunity to present issues, comments and ideas to Ross, while he was also able to table and explain the 2011 Service Charge estimates and five-year Planned Preventative Maintenance (PPM) forecasts for each long leasehold block.
Significant outcomes of this meeting are recorded in the following documents, which can be downloaded:
These give details of everyone attending the meeting and summarise common key complaints and issues. They also set out the details of one specific problem regarding the redecoration of the internal parts of Block 59-63 Trinity Church Square.
These set out block by block all those specific matters to which Ross said he would provide full responses to all those present who raised them
Please note that the following matters have also been noted and agreed in principle:
(a) another open meeting (to be held in the daytime) with D&G will be fixed in mid-year, when Ross will present and explain actual year-end 2010 service charges per individual block;
(b) D&G will include details of actual third quarter costs (i.e. to end September) when they present Service Charge estimates to each block in the autumn of 2011;
(c) no work will now be able to commence on the internal refurbishment of Block 59-63 Trinity Church Square until the matter of Common Parts costs (contested by those who have no access to such parts and who derive no direct benefit from them in any way) has been resolved by the verdict of the relevant Tribunal.
Ross Whitham/Dan Bray say that this matter is now in the hands of Trinity House's solicitors, Forsters. No timetable has yet been advised regarding the presentation of documents to the Tribunal, nor of a date by when a decision will be received. If the Tribunal finds for the owners concerned then the remaining owners will each have to pick up a proportion of these costs.
NB this will in effect be a test case, as this matter also affects some others on the Estate.
Douglas & Gordon: Questionnaire on service levels and general performance
Following TNRA's representations Trinity House now recognise that D&G's performance is considered to be unsatisfactory by a number of long leaseholders. They have therefore agreed that Nelson Bakewell should circulate an appropriate questionnaire to all long leaseholders to obtain a statistically significant and objective measurement of D&G's efficiency.
This questionnaire will be mailed in early January (or can be downloaded from here, above) - as its results may well convince Trinity House that they have a real issue to deal with, please do take the necessary time to carefully consider it, complete it and return it!
9 December 2010
A further meeting was held on 20 January 2011. Click here to download the agreed minutes.
A brief update on events since the approval of these minutes is as follows:
1 It appears that Ross Whitham has still not provided all or full replies to queries and requests made at the Long Leaseholders meeting at the end of November 2010, which he promised to do before Christmas.
2 In the first week of February Dan Bray was still awaiting details from Jane Munro concerning proposals to improve D&G's service levels.
3 I will shortly be asking Dan Bray to have an informal peek at the responses to the D&G Service Performance Questionnaire before NB set a cut-off date for the receipt of the Questionnaires and then analyse them.
4 8th March has been set by the local Rent Tribunal for a pre-trial hearing of a claim being made by the owners of three apartments in 59-63 Trinity Church Square. Their contention is that it is entirely unreasonable for them to be required to pay very significant repair, redecoration and cleaning costs etc related to common parts of the block to which they have no access, and from which they derive no benefit.
11 February 2011