Dr Brian Potter, chairman of Islington Leaseholders’ Association, said it was an “absolutely fabulous result.”
Published: 2 November, 2012
by PETER GRUNER
A TWO-year ordeal has ended for dozens of residents who faced paying the Town Hall crippling repair bills after council chiefs quietly admitted defeat.
The decision could have a wide-ranging impact on thousands of leaseholders throughout the borough who hope to challenge fees for work carried out on their homes by the now-disbanded housing agency Homes for Islington (HfI), which managed Islington’s council housing stock for the last eight years.
The leaseholders in Archway – owners of former council property – initially challenged the whopping £28,000 bill for repair work on their homes at the Leaseholders Valuation Court – and saw the figure dramatically reduced by almost 60 per cent to £12,000 in April.
The council had threatened to try to appeal this decision in the High Court, but this week it quietly let the deadline slip, and admitted it would not be pursuing the case.
A Channel 4 Dispatches programme broadcast earlier this year claimed that the residents on the Tremlett Grove estate, near Junction Road, had been the victims of “sweetheart” deals between the Town Hall and developers by which any ‘profits’ from repair works – the difference between the quote and actual cost – was split between them.
While such deals did exist, the Town Hall says they did not apply to the Tremlett Grove repairs. A council spokesman also said that the judgment was not about the necessity of the repairs, but rather having the proof they were necessary – meaning that a massive drop in repair costs for other leaseholders will not necessarily automatically follow.
“We’re committed to investing in our homes for the benefit of our tenants and leaseholders, while keeping down pressure on rents and service charges,” the spokesman said.
“Getting this balance right often involves difficult choices.
"The tribunal is not saying that this work was unnecessary, but rather they wanted more evidence to prove it was necessary.
“Decisions about whether to appeal LVT rulings are very finely balanced and, after careful consideration, we have decided not to appeal to the Upper Tribunal in this case.
“The repair contract at Tremlett Grove and Merryweather Court was not a profit-share contract. The council no longer has any profit-share contracts for housing. The last of these was ended in 2010.”
The original historic decision to cut repair bills for seven leaseholders on the Tremlett Grove estate was made by a valuation court in April this year.
A panel ruled that much of a £2million remedial project for two blocks on the estate was not needed and therefore leaseholders shouldn’t have to pay.
The council, which was refused permission to appeal by a Lands Tribunal, had been considering taking the case to the Administrative Court, a division of the High Court, on a point of law.
But this week a time limit for the appeal expired and a council official confirmed that the case was now closed.
One of the leaseholders, retired secretary Judith Granville, said she was delighted it was finally over.
“We’ve had this hanging over us for two years.
"It’s such a relief to know that it is finished,” she said.
She praised the residents’ barrister Patricia Napier and Dr Brian Potter, chairman of Islington Leaseholders’ Association, for their unstinting support.
“It wouldn’t have been possible without these two important figures,” she added.
Ms Napier, who worked on a pro bono basis, said that she had been told that the appeal was out of time by the council’s project manager Richard Powell. She is still waiting for a letter of confirmation.
She added: “I’ve also been told that other leaseholders in the two blocks involved, Merryweather and Brennand courts, will have their bills reduced as a result of this case.”
Could other leaseholders in the borough also benefit? “Our experiences may be valuable to other leaseholders but every case is different,” she said.
Ms Napier is working on appeals over fees with leaseholders at Blenheim Court, Holloway, and on the Hornsey Lane estate in Archway.
Dr Potter said it was an “absolutely fabulous result” but he hoped that the council would in future scrutinise all work by contractors to ensure it was really essential.
“For too long contractors have had it their own way on what they do and what they charge,” he said.
“That’s why leaseholder bills have in so many cases been so high. Now it’s time for the council to keep tabs on what is being done in their name.”
• The annual meeting of the Federation of Islington Tenant Associaitions is on Thursday November 22 at Islington Town Hall at 7pm.