Wednesday, 18 November 2015

Current Roof Disrepair Situation

Following on from my September post, when I eventually opened my accumulated holiday post I found a letter from Ms Parris about the roof, dated 27th August. I wouldn't really describe it as a 'consultation', certainly not within the requirements of Section 20. She wanted me to sign a form agreeing to contribute to the cost of the repair. In my case that's £331.71.

I didn't reply, having already advised Mr Crawley that I will not enter into any correspondence with Ms Parris, given past experience. Completely ignored by both of them. Plus ├ža change.

Meanwhile, the roof remains unrepaired; I have repeatedly pressed Mr Crawley to provide a date that the roof will be repaired.

Readers will recall that Mr Brophy initially told me "council policy" prevented Wandsworth from proceeding with the emergency repair he'd proposed in July. When I challenged Mr Crawley on this point, he told me:

"The Council policy that Mr Brophy referred to is the requirement for the Council to formally consult with leaseholders when we wish to undertake certain repairs to a block. In this case we are obliged to consult with all the leaseholders in your block prior to undertaking the proposed works. The statutory basis for the procedure relating to your property is set out in Section 20 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (as amended by the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002)".

I again challenged Mr Crawley on this point, given that, firstly, Section 20 is a statutory requirement, not a "council policy", and, secondly, we were long past any Section 20 consultation deadline (although none had been given in Ms Parris' letter and the letter failed to comply with Section 20 notice requirements).

He completely ignored my comments regarding Section 20. He didn't mention it at all. Nor Ms Parris' failure to comply with Section 20 procedure (Ms Parris being a model of untouchable perfection). Instead, he told me that it was all due to the fact that some of the other leases in the block are different to mine and require Wandsworth to obtain the written agreement of all lessees regarding repair costs, and that they were still chasing responses from several lessees.

In effect, Mr Crawley is refusing to comply with the Landlord's repairing obligations, given that he will not proceed unless every lessee signs a form agreeing to pay £X. A situation which could, theoretically, continue for an indefinite period.

Mr Crawley also helpfully threatened, in his email of 13th November, to pursue me for the 50% of the cost of the roof repair instead. This is due to an anomaly in my lease, saying I'm responsible for 50% of block repairs, with the block defined as three terraced houses (in which there are eight flats). [Apparently, the block is defined differently in other leases in the uncertain block].

But, many years ago, - and no doubt Mr Crawley is unaware of it - Wandsworth Finance Department wrote to me formalizing the agreement to charge me 10.976% of block repairs in line with percentages charged in other leases, - i.e. so that the total for eight flats added up to 100% not more than 100%. Mr Crawley's threat would involve Wandsworth serving Section 20 notices claiming well over 100% of the repair costs from the lessees, and I would suggest he obtains legal advice as to the viability of his proposed "alternative" course of action.

Anyway, yesterday I decided I've simply had enough. I called my solicitors and I'm seeing them next week to discuss legal action.

On a side note, the downstairs flat has a[nother] leak apparently emanating from my balcony. Mr Crawley wants me to remove the decking and plant pot on my balcony in order to inspect. I've told him I am not physically able to do so, and his contractors are welcome to remove whatever they need to in order to inspect. Mr Crawley implicitly declined this obvious option, and is now claiming that I am in breach of the lease, for having the decking and plant pot on my balcony. Needless to say, he has not provided any case law to support his interpretation of my lease, perhaps due to the fact that he is not a qualified legal practitioner. He is more than welcome to pursue a claim for the alleged breach in the First Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber).

Wandsworth Tries But Fails To Repair Windows

Following the major external cock-up works of 2012, three [out of four] of my sash windows developed problems, either failing to stay shut or failing to open. (My downstairs neighbour had, and AFAIK still has, the same problem).

Three years and numerous visits to inspect later, only one window has been repaired. Lately, there has been another 'push' towards achieving this epic repair.

On 29th July 2015, Mr Brophy [apparently no longer working at the council*] successfully identified that "two sash windows were not working correctly". Previous inspections over the years had, unsurprisingly, yielded the same conclusion.

On 9th October, Mr Adedoyin from Wandsworth was due to come in the afternoon (no precise time was specified) with the window repair contractor from T. Brown Group, to repair the windows. Nobody came. Mr Crawley said afterwards that the appointment had been for 9-10am that morning. This is incorrect; I know I agreed the afternoon when Mr Adedoyin called me to arrange the appointment. He did not send an email to confirm, so I cannot prove it.

So, another appointment was made, this time via Mr Crawley, for 30th October. Mr Adedoyin came, but without the contractor from T. Brown to repair the windows. Mr Adedoyin just had another look. Sure enough, he concluded that the windows weren't functioning correctly. 

On 10th November, although no appointment had been made, a contractor from T. Brown randomly showed up while I was out and left a card saying he'd tried to gain access.

Another appointment was made, for the morning of today, 18th November.  Nobody came. I emailed Mr Crawley at 12.12pm to advise him of this. He said they were running late, and they'd be there "before 1pm". Nobody had bothered to let me know. I had to go out at 12:30pm, having arranged my day in order to be at home the whole morning. Got back later to find card from T. Brown saying they'd tried to gain access at 1.23pm (not the morning, and not "before 1pm"). Email received from Mr Crawley proposing another repair attempt on 23rd November. Maybe fifth time lucky.

* That's three disappeared so far: Ms Whiteside who supervised and organized (haha) the major works; Mr Phelps-Gardiner who was completely unable to identify the cause of the roof leak over the course of repeated inspections; and Mr Brophy (the only competent person so far encountered at Wandsworth) who was immediately able to identify the cause of the roof leak on his first inspection.

Thursday, 3 September 2015

A Month Later

I finally received an email dated 13th August from Mr Crawley informing me that the roof repair will cost in the region of £3,000, and that the other seven lessees will have to be consulted. So far, no sign of this consultation.

I was on holiday for the second half of August and returned home yesterday expecting the worst, but actually the two giant buckets I bought were effective at preventing further water damage.

But I think the water trails on the wall between the sitting room and bedroom are worse. I have outlined them in pencil and dated them 2/9/15 for future reference. (Click photo to enlarge).

Thursday, 13 August 2015

Further Buckets Acquired

I bought two giant buckets to add to the two smaller ones (cost £13.98). Of course, I shall be moving rug and furniture as far away as possible from the main ingress area when I go on holiday in a few days, but there's nothing I can do about the sofa (which is close to the second drip). It's not a huge room and there's nowhere to move it to.

Heavy Rain Today 13th August

It rained heavily this morning when I was out. I returned to find the floor wet. Again.

My wood flooring is already damaged from previous downpours.

More worrying, there was brand new water damage to the wall, with drip trails coming down from the ceiling patch which appeared last month. Click on the photo below for an enlarged view.

My fitted wardrobe is on the other side of these drips. It is merely a matter of time before my wardrobe becomes unusable.

Photo below of the second place where water is coming through - it's the long thin patch. But on either side there are two further places where it's threatening to come through. (Again, click to enlarge).

Wednesday, 12 August 2015

Still Nothing

It is now 10 full working days since Mr Brophy's visit on the 29th July and our exchange of emails.

I have not received any response to my emails of 29th July and 4th August apart from Sonia McDonald's email dated 31st July acknowledging receipt of the first email. No acknowledgment of the second email.

Both emails were cc'ed to Mr Crawley. 

Friday, 7 August 2015

No Acknowledgment of My Email to Mr Brophy of 4th August

I've not received an acknowledgement of my last email to Mr Brophy dated 4th August, reminding him of the urgency of the roof leak.

Nor have I received the statutory notice of works which Mr Brophy told me, in his email of 29th July, would be served imminently:

"At this present moment in time a section 20 consultation notice is being drafted for both the 99 year lessee and yourself laying out the proposed works and costs.  My intention is to have these with you by tomorrow afternoon at the latest."

"Tomorrow afternoon" as in 30th July. Proposed works as in not the urgent temporary repair, but "more permanent" works to the gutter. Section 20 consultations take months, as I noted in my reply of 29th July (and meanwhile my home contents remain at serious risk of water damage).  I also pointed out that there are eight flats in the block, not two.

At this rate I may be forced to apply for a court order or injunction ordering Wandsworth to comply with its repairing obligations, but it'll have to wait till I'm back from holiday.

Tuesday, 4 August 2015

Email to Mr Brophy 4th August

The last I heard from Mr Brophy was his email on Wednesday 29th July. I replied the same day. I received an acknowledgement from Sonia McDonald on Friday 31st July, but have yet to receive an actual response to the points raised in my email reply. (Ms McDonald's email promised a written response within 10 working days, which takes us to 13th or 14th August, just before I go on holiday).

So, tonight, Tuesday 4th August, I have emailed Mr Brophy again, reminding of the urgency of the roof leak, including a link to this blog, and cc'ed to Mr Crawley (who is on holiday right now).

I will be logging every event, however minor, as it's good evidence for the probably inevitable (going by past experience) litigation to come.

Monday, 3 August 2015

A New Episode Is Born

The Wandsworth Saga continues, without vampires but with a continuing leitmotif of damp and water ingress.

The latest episode began in the winter of 2010. I noticed a patch of damp on the wall of my second bedroom, which I use as a home office. I pointed it out to Mr Crawley when he visited in November 2010 concerning the previous roof terrace episode.

The damp patch was small at that time, and I wasn't too worried about it as I knew external works would be happening in the not too distant future. Naively, I thought it'd be sorted out then.

In February 2012, the damp patch having increased in size, I wrote to Mr Crawley reminding him about it, and that autumn the scaffold went up, and the external works were done.

Meanwhile, an intermittent leak started in my sitting room ceiling (my flat is on the top floor, so caused by roof disrepair). I reported it to the woman at Wandsworth in charge of the external works, Ann Whiteside (no longer employed by Wandsworth) in an email dated 5th August 2012. Again, I imagined it'd be sorted, because, after all, there would be contractors all over the outside, - you know, repairing stuff. Especially stuff which I'd reported as needing to be repaired.

The photos below depict the situation in January 2015, well over two years after the external works were done, works for which my share of the cost was £2,491.

No.1 - The Damp Patch: the pencil line delineating the extent in June 2012. It's grown since then. Approx 1 metre wide in this photo in January 2015 (click to enlarge photo).

No. 2 - The Primary Ceiling Leak. About 50cm across, and resembling a sepia creature in flight.

The damp patch is further expanding into my bathroom next door, pushing walls tiles out. Inevitably, the ceiling leak is also a lot worse - as of July 2015 it's started dripping in two places, with further soon-to-drip places visible, including by a dividing wall, and the other side of the wall is my bedroom's fitted wardrobe. (Also, two of my sash windows are broken). All this has been repeatedly reported to Mr Crawley. There have been numerous visits to inspect by Mr Phelps-Gardiner (no longer employed by Wandsworth) who said that a long crack in the exterior wall is responsible for the damp in the wall and that it was only cosmetically patched up during the external works.

Mr Phelps-Gardiner said he couldn't, however, find the source of the roof leak.

Then, lately, having written to Mr Crawley yet again, this time threatening legal action, a new inspector, Mr Brophy, came round at 10am on 29th July 2015. He saw immediately what was already obvious to me, and which I had tried to explain to Mr Phelps-Gardiner, that the roof problem is related to the valley gutter - which runs over the centre of my flat, front to back. It's too shallow, so that when it rains very hard, the gutter overflows into the roof cavity. (It is, moreover, an inherently idiotic design, to put a gutter in the middle of a roof).

There had been heavy monsoon-style rain over the weekend of 25th-26th July, and one morning there was a huge puddle on the floor, as the primary drip (from sepia creature) had shifted position. Anyway, Mr Brophy immediately called and arranged for someone to come the following morning to make a temporary repair to prevent further water ingress, pending a proper resolution of the problem. He obviously considered that it merited immediate action, just as I did.

Then, later that day, Mr Brophy emailed me to cancel the appointment for the following morning:

"I must begin with an apology with regards to the roof works.  In an effort to have a speedy repair carried out, I was not aware that [the flat below] was owned by a 99 year lessee.  Following a meeting with the Area Housing Manager regarding the proposed temporary works, I was reminded of the council’s policy that requires the agreement of any 99 year leaseholders within the building before carrying out any works, which I am informed also includes repairs to the roof coverings and in this instance to the valley gutter.

It is with regret and embarrassment that I have to inform you that the contractor will not be attending tomorrow morning."

I replied pointing out the Wandsworth's corporate policy has no impact on its contractual repairing obligations as Landlord under the terms of the lease. Well, that was the central point of a much longer email. I also pointed out Wandsworth's liability should any of my belongings suffer water damage due to its negligence in complying with its repairing obligations.

Mr Brophy didn't reply, I just got an acknowledgment email from someone called Sonia McDonald.

So, I am reviving this blog because this looks set to continue for a few years more, going by past experience; and it's a good way to keep a record/diary of events should I be forced to pursue legal action.

Today, I discovered that my downstairs neighbour has been having almost identical problems, with a leak repair which took over 6 years to happen (first reported in 2008). Again, not addressed during the major works of 2012. And, since the major works, there have been several balconies requiring repair, also not identified as needing repair prior to the major works - indeed, I doubt that a proper inspection was ever carried out. I emailed Mr Crawley on 26th July asking him to confirm the areas which Ms Whiteside inspected prior to drafting the specification of works. I await his reply upon his return from holiday.

Finally, somewhat incredibly, Ms Parris is still employed by Wandsworth. Just as incredibly, she has been writing to me about the latest (third) balcony repair, requesting my signature on a form to agree. This is even after I informed Mr Crawley that I am unwilling to engage in any further communications with her, given her failure to respond to numerous letters I sent to her between 2006-2008 about the roof terrace, given that these letters mysteriously never made it into Wandsworth's files, and given her notable failure to recall our meeting in May 2006 and what we discussed and agreed at that meeting. Nor has Mr Crawley ever acknowledged my complaints in this respect. He has throughout completely ignored the issue, never once responding to any point I made in respect of Ms Parris's conduct. 

Needless to say, Ms Parris' letters and emails to me are being dealt with in precisely the same manner in which she dealt with my letters between 2006-2008.