Southfields Leaseholders Furious at Huge Bill From Council

Told they must pay up to £20,000 each toward major works programme

Stoford Close leaseholders. Picture: Alexandre ClaudonStoford Close leaseholders. Picture: Alexandre Claudon

Leaseholders on an estate in Southfields are furious after being told they will each have to pay up to £20,000 to Wandsworth Council as part of a major works programme on the estate.

Residents on Stoford Close were shocked when they were hit with the huge bills in May last year, during the first national lockdown to combat the coronavirus pandemic.

Although they will not have to start paying until October 2022, many still fear they will not be able to afford it.

Alexandre Claudon, 32, moved into his flat with his partner in March 2020. He was originally told that upcoming major works would be around £5,000 per flat and was shocked to receive an estimate of £14,345 for his flat in May, for what he argues are mainly ‘decorative’ and minor works such as painting and replacing small patches of concrete on the stairs. He says the only way he will be able to afford the repairs is through further debt.

“We would need to ask our mortgage lender for additional borrowing,” he said.

“Nice, isn’t it? Instead of building savings for productive projects, life, business ideas, we will increase our monthly mortgage payments. And this is subject to us having kept our two jobs by the time we extend our mortgage, in October 2022, as if either my wife or myself lose our job in the meantime, I can’t see how we will be able to remortgage.

“Worst case scenario we could be forced to sell our flat because of stupidly high cosmetic works. Best-case scenario we keep our jobs and we pay the works with more debt.”

Matevz Tratnjek, 38, says the cost estimate “seems to be completely out of touch with reality”. He has owned his flat since 2009, but no longer lives there. He has been told the estimate for his portion of the works alone is £16,500. As a live-out leaseholder, he has been told he will have to pay within 10 days when the final bill arrives in October 2022. Live-in leaseholders will be allowed to pay the sum over 10 months from this date.

“I do not have £16k in my bank account to pay,” he said.

“I’d have to get money from my parents, honestly, because I’m not going to be able to have a mortgage extended.”

He has also criticised Wandsworth Council’s consultation as “shambolic.”

“I have not seen an organisation so very inept, incapable at running a meaningful, transparent, informed consultation process, with so little regard for the people impacted, with a total lack of sensitivity and empathy.

“What’s worse, people in charge are completely oblivious to what is going on in the world, the biggest health and economic challenge the country has been facing since World War Two. It’s as if they are not living on the same planet.”

He added: [The council’s] line is, we are giving you notice now, we are so kind at Wandsworth Council, in the time of pandemic, we’re giving you so much notice, you now need to save.

“That’s just over two years to save £16,000. I don’t have kids, so I don’t have expense on kids, but you know, it’s hard to save £16,000 in two years.”

He says many leaseholders have sought their own quotes for some of the works, and have found them to be a lot cheaper.

“Some of the work absolutely has to be done. But you know, I’ve lived there for 10 years. And in that 10 years’ time, I mean I look at before and after photos, it’s really gone downhill.

“The state of the actual block has gone downhill, you can tell the cleanliness of the canopy, the entrance, the roof, you can tell everything is just decaying. And it’s just I think mismanagement on a year-by-year basis in terms of ongoing maintenance.

“We keep on forking out, you know, £2,000 or £3,000 here and there for this patch of roof or this patch on our side when things are leaking through. And it takes about a year to get it repaired anyway.”

He says he wants to see “a reasonable, value for money proposal that will actually make our blocks and the close a nicer neighbourhood to live in and will drive value for everyone who lives there.”

Romilly Hope-Wells, 33, has lived on Stoford Close since 2009 after moving in with her husband, Steve. They purchased their flat in 2015.

She said they could pay the amount by using a large portion of their “hard-earned savings” but said she doesn’t believe the works could possibly cost so much.

“We are very concerned for our neighbours who quite literally cannot afford these works,” she said.

“I agree that the windows need to be replaced. The window panels in the communal staircase do too. But I don’t think the leaseholders should have to pay for redecoration which could have been kept on top of over the years with better maintenance.

“Personally I want good value for money and don’t want to pay such a ridiculous price for the works listed and be taken advantage of financially.”

A spokesperson from Wandsworth Council said, “The council has an obligation to carry out regular maintenance and repairs to its housing stock so that our tenants and leaseholders can live in properly-cared-for homes with decent amenities like functioning boiler systems, energy efficient windows and lifts that work.

“In this case leaseholders who have purchased their properties have been given estimates for what this major works project may involve. Tendered sums will not be known until later this Spring, but there will be nothing to pay until October 2022 and for resident leaseholders an option to repay over ten months interest free, so we are making sure that those who do have to pay a share are given plenty of advance warning and time to pay. If leaseholders are struggling to find the funds then we would urge them to make contact so we can explore ways we can help them.”


Sian Bayley - Local Democracy Reporter

February 17, 2021