11/02/2009

Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear

We all knew that Lambeth Housing was in a bit of a self imposed mess, and this is an outline of what it amounts to.

I’m not going to add much in the way of comment, but anyone who acts on occasion for Lambeth tenants or leaseholders or homeless applicants will be nodding along with the article. As current (completely unsubstantiated by me) rumour has it, Lambeth are allegedly even rather desperate to delay paying damages or costs awards on successful claims until after the start of their new financial year, which I would guess means a total budget freeze is in operation.

The effects of this crisis will become apparent soon. The rent rises for tenants not on HB are bad enough, but the 65% increase in hot water/heating charges, which is not payable by HB, will be devastating for the poorest tenants where estate heating is in operation. This could easily be an extra £5 or more a week. Expect a big rise in arrears and possessions/evictions as a result of both increases.

Personally, I suspect hot water/heating charges at that level over and above HB may be arguable as an affordability issue in homelessness matters, both in terms of affordability of current accommodation and affordability as an issue for suitability of an offer of permanent accommodation.

And the repairs backlog? Or the deficient supposedly done repairs? I believe the expression is ‘don’t even go there, girlfriend’.

Leaseholders could well be looking at very large major works charges for past years. Apparently billing for up to 9 years ago is taking place. I’d therefore expect a lot of LVT challenges, on s.20 compliance, on payability, on reasonableness and on historic neglect. Challenges are difficult for leaseholders to do alone, and there is no legal aid for the LVT, but if an estate’s leaseholders get together… (Or, as I am often reminded by someone not too far from the blog, leaseholders should check every insurance policy they have for legal expenses insurance that may cover representation for an application). Mind you, there may well not be a viable challenge, in which case people are potentially facing very significant charges – so I predict debt claims and s.21 notices aplenty from Lambeth a few months down the line.

Giles Peaker is a solicitor and partner in the Housing and Public Law team at Anthony Gold Solicitors in South London. You can find him on Linkedin and on Twitter. Known as NL round these parts.

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