OK, few leaseholders in our block have been questioning Lewisham Homes about their cleaning contract obligation compliance since April this year. That when it was all started.
Lewisham Homes took over from the council to manage our estate about 10 years ago. The service charges doubled from the moment they took over.The previous owner of my flat used to pay 600-700 pounds a year for service charges. After Lewisham Homes took over, it doubled and stayed no less than 1200 per year. And that excluding the majorworks bills.
Now, we never had cleaning problems in our block. Since Lewisham Homes took over, it slowly degraded. The worst years when it hit the rock bottom were years 2015, 2016, 2017. Because it was getting so bad, I requested a breakdown for our service charges 2015-2016. When I received them, Lewisham Homes stated 44 hours cleaning services per block per week (i will publish the documents a bit later) and the total amount caretaking charges were coming to around 17,000 per year per our block. The state of the building was awful and I started taking photos, I have over 500 photos of the evidence of the pigsty we were living (will publish them later as well). looking at the level of the caretaking and the statement of 44 hrs per week cleaning hours raised questions that 44 hrs cleaning per week is a full time caretaker per block which we were not getting, where the caretaking service was missing and why we were charged for something we did not receive.
Then I attended a local TRA meeting in April this year, I discovered that there were the same caretaking problems in other blocks. From that point, I was not prepared to let it go as in previous years and met another leaseholder from our block from whom I learnt that he had offered a twice cheaper option for the replacement of our main door entry system to Lewisham Homes at the time when Lewisham Homes had been planning to the replace it. But Lewisham Homes had ignored his offer which was much better than the one we have now. We, the leasehoders and council funds, ended up paying twice more for the door entry system which has basic functions, faulty from the start, with one year warranty. We were also charged for the repairs of the faulty new door entry system. The poor standards of services provided by Lewisham Homes, being charged by them for services we did not receive and the money waste Lewisham Homes showed triggered an investigation which is still ongoing.The local MP was notified of our troubles as well as councillor Susan Wise. Below is my letter to the Lewisham Homes home ownership department querying the actual service charges for the years 2016-2017.
"Good morning Victoria,
Ref. Service charges breakdown for x, Standlake Point, Se23-2XB.
I and other leaseholders in our block have examined the service charges breakdown provided by yourself and the breakdown raised the following questions which we require a comprehensive answer for please:
- the breakdown submitted is missing the following sections:
lifts - what £5223.36 were spent for, please provide jobs details
entry phones - £772.61, what were spent for, please provide details
electricity and communal lighting - £2891.20 – please provide details how much electricity was spent and what are the charges per unit
pest control - £1002.00 – I believe John, another leaseholder from our block, questioned yourself and got a reply that £54 were spent to remove a dead pigeon by the caretaker – we are charged £40.17 per hour caretaking service and charged again £54 for cleaning the dead pigeon by the caretaker? It is a clear charging for the same service twice. The refund of £54 is due to the block leaseholders, please. £950 were spent for the pigeon proofing - can you please provide the details of what job exactly was done, where exactly was done so we can investigate the repair.
communal window cleaning - £133, please provide jobs details (what windows, how many times, dates)
bulk household waste removal - £3291.77, please provide details of jobs carried out, schedules, dates,/ days of the week, etc.
sweeping (external area) - £1417.98 - please provide details what services were provided, what areas, dates, days, etc.
ground maintenance- £3485.96, please provide details what jobs were carried out, when, etc.
Window repairs: job # 4445412 on 22/06/2016 – erect scaffold and renew window frame to bedroom of flat number 17 and the job # 4508107 on 25/01/2017 – measure up balcony door for renewal flat number 33. On what ground do you charge leaseholders for repairs carried out in other, not belonging to leaseholders flats, please? The lease (the tenth schedule, part one, the service charges, contribution formula, repairs and maintenance section) clearly states that leaseholders contribute to the repairs of their own leasehold properties and common parts only. Windows, as doors, as any other parts of each separate flat are not common parts, they are not shared areas. Refund due to leaseholders for the wrong billing, please.
Caretaking charges: Mr Kanareck confirmed the price Lewisham Homes charge per hour of caretaking - £40.17. Estimated charges for three blocks on our estate for years 2017-2018 are 53,023.86 pounds. You kindly provided the breakdown of the hourly costs of caretaking which are: equipment, supervision, uniforms, telephones, IT, transportation and associated running costs, wages for caretaker, supervisor and manager, cleaning materials, admin support, office accommodation. As you are probably aware, we obtained quotes from commercial cleaning companies for the same amount of services currently provided by Lewisham Homes, with one caretaker cleaning our three blocks only (more weekly hours per block) and providing service 52 weeks a year, not 44 weeks as currently provided by Lewisham Homes. The quotes came as 30 percent cheaper from both commercial companies. It raised further questions as to why Lewisham Homes, a not-for-profit organisation, charges so high prices that affect not only leaseholders, but council funds your company source the money from. Therefore please provide a comprehensive breakdown of how £53,023.86 pounds distributed between equipment, supervision, uniforms, telephones, IT, transportation and associated running costs, wages for caretaker, supervisor and manager, cleaning materials, admin support, office accommodation. Once the breakdown is provided by yourself, I will be requesting to see every single invoice, receipt, etc. that supports the breakdown of £53,023.86 for further assessments.
Kitchen sinks blockages:
job #4433137 on 06/05/2016 – jetters to clear blocked stack affecting kitchen flat 23
job # 4485545 on 4/11/2016 – clear stack affecting utilities to flat 35 causing blockages
job # 4485545 on 4/11/2016 – clear blocked stack affecting flat 35 sink
Can you provide details of where exactly all three blockages were, please?
This is not a comprehensive list of my enquiries/complaints. Further enquiries in respect to the service charges breakdown may follow.
I trust you will treat my enquiries seriously as they are a part of the investigation that has been carried out since April this year by leaseholders/residents due to the multiple Lewisham Homes failures in various areas of their contracted obligations.
I trust 30 days will be sufficient to prepare a comprehensive reply.