Tuesday, March 13, 2012

Refund for The Wall!

Thanks to the efforts of Crossfields TRA, leaseholders in Browne, Cremer, Castell, Holden and Wilshaw will each be getting a £15 refund on their service charges.

This is because leaseholders were charged for the rebuilding of this wall below, which was damaged by a car in July 2010. Indirectly, tenants have also been charged (in their weekly rent), but it remains to be seen whether they'll notice any rent reduction.

The wall was not rebuilt for four months. The TRA was told by the Lewisham Homes rep attending a meeting in the months following, that the delay was due to Lewisham Homes pursuing an insurance claim. In August, a member of the Repairs Team turned up to rebuild the wall but was called off the job whilst there (in the presence of a TRA member). Also in August, a Quality Inspector referred in an email to the insurance claim being made to cover the damage, and assured the TRA that the rubble would be removed. A claim for the damage to a wire fence behind the wall would also form part of the claim.

The wall was finally rebuilt in November 2010. At the TRA AGM later in November, concern was expressed that the wire fencing behind the wall had still not been repaired, and the rubble not cleared. At some point later, a wooden fence was erected – with poor foundations, so that it is now falling down.

Leaseholders then got their bills in March 2011. The TRA requested an Itemised Breakdown of Repairs and discovered that five blocks had been charged for the rebuilding of the wall at a total cost of £3278.81.

Enquiries were made to find out why a charge had been passed on to leaseholders (and indirectly, to tenants too) when we had previously been told on several occasions that an insurance claim had been made.

Back came the answer:

- there was no record available of the Lewisham Homes' rep's statement that there would be an insurance claim,
- there was no record of the Repairs Team call out to repair the wall in August 2010, then being recalled (there should've been a void docket recorded),
- there was no record of the Quality Inspector's email to a TRA member which verified that an insurance claim was being made,
- there was, in fact, no record of any insurance claim.

The TRA (made up of voluntary unpaid members, mind – not staff paid to keep records of repairs and insurance claims) were then asked to put together a document detailing the evidence they held (in minutes, emails and photographs) to show that at all times during the process, they had been told that an insurance claim would be made. Confirmation that the evidence was accepted arrived last Thursday and we are told leaseholders will receive a letter about the credit to their accounts soon. It is not clear whether an insurance claim was ever made.

Apart from this all being no surprise to many that Lewisham Homes have cocked up again, this episode raises some questions:

– which office and what mechanisms are in place to check insurance claims against repairs?
– does this lack of monitoring also apply to recouping repair costs against contractor's guarantees and warranties?
– what exactly is covered by the insurance premium residents pay yearly (or included in tenants' rents)?

And, of course, with yet another display of administrative chaos, one might legitimately question the accuracy of all of our bills. With such poor record keeping and cross referencing, can they actually prove that the work they charge for was ever really done?

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