Venue: Ground Floor Meeting Room G02A - 160 Tooley Street, London SE1 2QH. View directions
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To receive any apologies for absence.
Apologies for absence were received from Bassey Bassey (Co-opted member).
Notification of any items of business which the chair deems urgent
In special circumstances, an item of business may be added to an agenda within five clear working days of the meeting.
There were no items of business which the Chair deemed urgent.
Disclosure of interests and dispensations.
Members to declare any interests and dispensations in respect of any item of business to be considered at this meeting.
Councillor Esme Hicks disclosed that she was a leaseholder and gave evidence as the Chair of the Brenchley Gardens Tenants Management Organisations.
Councillor Jane Salmon disclosed that she was a council leaseholder.
Ina Negoita (Co-opted member) disclosed that she is the Chair of the Homeowners Northwest Area Forum and also a council leaseholder.
To approve as a correct record the minutes of the meeting held on 12 July 2022.
Minutes of the meeting held on 12 July 2022 were approved as a correct record.
Issues with Leaseholder charges and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on leaseholders.
· To hear from David Eyles of the Leaseholders Association of Southwark on leasehold matters
· To hear from Ina Negoita, co-opted member and leaseholder representative on leaseholder experiences of legacy and current repair issues.
· To receive a report from Louise Turff, Head of Homeownership Services, Finance and Governance on Issues with Leaseholder charges and the impact of the cost-of-living crisis on leaseholders especially but not limited to rising energy bills and repair issues.
The report also focuses on how expenditures are accounted for in service charges.
The commission heard from David Eyles, Chief Executive of Leaseholders Association of Southwark on the effects of the cost-of-living crisis on leaseholders. The commission learnt about the detrimental financial impact that inflation, mortgage debt and interest rates would have on homeowners. Homeowners can be classified into two groups’ resident homeowners and investors that buy to let, resident homeowners are the larger group consisting of ordinary working people such as NHS workers, Doctors, teachers and cleaners and it’s this group that are struggling to pay the bills.The commission learned that elderly pensioners who need social care from the council are struggling to pay for their meals.
The commission then heard from David on the following points:
· Invoices to leaseholders based on varying estimates over 4-5 year periods
· Increase in service charges and electricity bills going up from £100 to £400
· Lack of pro-active maintenance leading to increased repair works
· Lack of scheduling repairs and improper works carried out at the first attempt
· Lack of assessment of the competency of building contractors and issues with the tendering process
· Lack of access for Leaseholders Association of Southwark (LAS 2000) to audit major works.
· Key workers looking to sell their property and moving out of borough
The commission then heard from Ina Negoita (co-opted member) leaseholder representative that the works carried out by the council need to be in accordance with the Housing Act and within government regulations and the justification for the works need to be disclosed to leaseholders.
Ina then addressed the commission around the following themes:
· Issues with the quality of works carried out by contractors, lack of penalties for contractors
· Value for Money (VFM) of works carried out
· Unlawful charges for e.g. 35% increase in roofing charges
· Inflationary costs of the work due to hierarchy of contractors and sub-contractors and their respective percentage charges at every level.
· Lack of overall operational and financial control of contractors
· Clarification between the freeholder and leaseholders responsibilities with regards to major works
The commission then discussed the following topics:
· Communication from the council and information disclosed to leaseholders with regards to works
· Processes, if any for leaseholders to challenge estimations and requirement of major works
· Cases of Southwark Council not following regulations with regards to works
· Consultation structure for leaseholders associations
The commission then heard from David that the new consultation structure is not effective and needs to be changed to include all residents from all age groups. The commission learnt that service charge statements do not disclose the actual costs of works to the leaseholders which has made it difficult to challenge the estimates.
The commission then received a presentation from Louise Turff, Head of Homeownership Services on Leaseholder Service Charges around the following main points:
· Construction of a service charge
· Service charges paid by homeowners mainly on district heating and estate costs
· Some leaseholders are billed by their respective Tenancy Management Organisations (TMOs) are self-financed.
· Large proportions 37%-50% of non-resident leaseholders mainly professional landlords or companies
· Case by case adjudication of ... view the full minutes text for item 5.
Progress on Empty Homes
To receive a report from Perry Singh, Strategy and Business Support Manager, Housing and Modernisation on progress on Empty Homes.
The commission received a report from Perry Singh, Strategy and Business Support Manager, Housing and Modernisation and Councillor Darren Merrill, Cabinet member for Council Homes and Homelessness on progress on Empty Homes around the following topics:
· Empty Homes action plan based on data from council records of empty homes that have been identified
· Survey of empty homes and to bring properties back in use by providing homeowners grants and loans
· Lobbying government to strengthen currently weak enforcement powers to bring empty homes back in use
· Privately owned empty homes are down by over a 1000 by publicising owners’ responsibilities to inform the council of its status.
· Council empty homes have gone up as a result of regeneration and refurbishment projects such as Aylesbury where homes have to be demolished and Marie Curie homes have to be decanted.
· Targets of 28 day for minor voids and 100 days for major voids but progress has been slow.
· Plans to reducing minor voids and bring within target by the end of the financial year
· Impact of the Covid pandemic, issues with hiring trade workers and building material deliveries
The commission then asked questions on the following points
· Incentivising or rewarding residents for leaving the property in a good state
· Southwark’s financial commitment to empty dwelling management orders of £2m compared to £6m of Haringey council.
· Strategy for dealing with voids in housing associations and social landlords
· Survey data collection methods for tenants and letting
The commission learned that the £2m funding is for Compulsory Purchase Orders (CPOs). Empty dwelling management orders are being done by very few councils. On strategy with regards to voids in housing associations and social landlords, meetings have been setup and this will be raised as a concern. Survey data collection has been carried out through council tax records. It was agreed that officers would report back to commission on tracking of actual no. of reports since enhancing the reporting service and suggestions for an app to report empty homes.
The commission then discussed the following points
· Empty homes and public anxiety of anti-social behaviour
· Steps taken by the private sector to bring over 1000 privately owned empty homes back in use
· Review of empty homes action plan in October 2022
· Allocation of empty homes to residents on housing needs register
Cabinet Response to the Southwark Housing and Community Engagement Scrutiny Commission (2021-2022) - Southwark Construction Consultation strategy response
To note the Cabinet Response to the Southwark Housing and Community Engagement Scrutiny Commission (2021-2022) - Southwark Construction Consultation strategy response.
The commission agreed to raise housing consultation lapses due to Covid restrictions at the Cabinet Member interview with Councillor Darren Merrill.
The Cabinet response was noted by the commission.
Cabinet response to the Housing and Community Engagement Scrutiny Commission: Licensing in the private rented sector in the Borough of Southwark
To note the Cabinet response to the Housing and Community Engagement Scrutiny Commission: Licensing in the private rented sector in the Borough of Southwark.
The Cabinet response was noted by the commission.
Proposed Work Programme 2022-2023
To consider the propose work programme for the 2022-2023 year.
The commission agreed to remove Temporary Accommodation as a substantive item to be scheduled and to include it as a part of the Cabinet Member Interview with Councillor Darren Merrill.
The Work Programme for the year 2022-2023 was noted by the commission with the change mentioned above.