Sunday, 28 February 2016

Wall Repair Update

Following on from my post about the weird idea of access onto the scaffold via my bedroom window, it has now been agreed that the contractors can't, sensibly, access it via my bedroom window. Exactly as I thought. The contractors are now accessing via the downstairs flat, and apparently finally turning up to start work tomorrow morning, 29th Feb.

Note, the scaffold went up on 8th Feb, three weeks ago.

Meanwhile, back at the Circumlocution Office

I think I have mentioned Mr Crawley's wish to inspect the surface of my balcony. This is because my downstairs neighbour, Mrs M, has damp in the wall below. This was inspected by Mr Brophy in July last year I know, the same day he came to inspect my flat. I presume the problem was reported much earlier.

The access to inspect is impeded by the fact that my balcony surface is decked and there is also a large (but not excessively large) flower pot.  Mr Crawley takes the view that these comprise a breach of the covenant in my lease requiring me "not to alter the external appearance of the flat in any way". I disagree with his interpretation, however, I am, as ever, endeavouring to be reasonable, and, at the start of negotiations, I told him that I was unable to physically move the items myself but that he was very welcome to remove/move whatever he wished to in order to inspect.

This was not good enough, of course. Mr Crawley required me to move the things myself.

Having arrive at this impasse, I think sometime in October last year, nothing happened for a very long time.

It was in fact me who revived the subject. It occurred to me, what with Wandsworth contractors due to come and fix the wall and roof, that they could remove the decking. It'd only take 15 minutes or so. A simple and reasonable suggestion, which I proposed to Mr Crawley.

He wrote on 25th Feb rejecting the idea. He said it might be possible but only if I were to pay for the work on a 'charge-back' basis.

This is my reply:

"Dear Mr Crawley,

I write further to your email of 25th February 2016 regarding the balcony inspection of [my flat].

In my email of 23rd February I made a simple and reasonable suggestion to facilitate your wish to inspect, i.e. I proposed that your on site contractors remove the decking, a very small job and, in the context of major works, involving no extra cost to anyone.

Somewhat predictably, you do not agree; you prefer to treat it as a huge big deal, one requiring the contractors to quote separately for 15 minutes' work, then for you to 're-charge' me. The associated paperwork would involve many more man-hours than the job itself.

There is also the question of liability. Forgive me if I do not accept your interpretation of the lease, but it is merely your personal and amateur opinion. You do not cite relevant case law nor any authority at all to indicate that a plant pot and a few planks of wood laid on top of a balcony surface comprise an alteration of the external appearance, any more than a person standing on the balcony comprises such an alteration in appearance.

Please note that I will not engage in any further, futile argument with you on this subject. If you wish to argue, then please instruct qualified solicitors to write to me and I will be happy to discuss it with them.

Alternatively, I've another suggestion. You can wait until I have my own builders on site, who will be here to carry out the work to remedy the interior disrepair.

However, I can't book builders until after you have completed the external repairs, which you say you "anticipate" (in your letter to my solicitors dated 23rd February) will be done by 22nd March. You would also have to coordinate the inspection together with any necessary balcony repair according to when my builders are on site, - which will be no more than 10 working days,  - because I want my builders to lay new decking and I am not prepared to wait months, or years, for you to carry out any necessary balcony repair first.

I'm sure Mrs M. [in the flat] below is equally keen for you to carry out the repairs as soon as possible, and not have to chase you over a period of six years as happened with the disrepair to her roof terrace.

In conclusion, please do not attempt to put forward any further opinions as to my alleged liability;  merely advise whether you wish to proceed with one of the two options I propose; either 1) your on site contractors do it, or 2) you wait for my builders, and you accept the restriction that you work within the timescale of my builders being on site. 

If you reject options 1) and 2) then the only option remaining to you is 3) instruct solicitors, - who will, I expect, advise you that the matter is 'de minimis' and to opt for 1) or 2).

Yours etc
."

Wednesday, 24 February 2016

The Weight of a Solicitor's Letter

My solicitor received a reply from Mr Crawley yesterday. Mr Crawley says the roof will be repaired within 28 days. No mention whatsoever of having to get signed consents to the cost of the repair from all the lessees.

Amazing. After arguing with Mr Crawley till blue in the face, one letter from a solicitor (which essentially repeated my arguments, but in a weightier style) and suddenly he's Mr Cooperative. I fully expected it, as there is no question that Wandsworth is obliged to repair the roof, and to do so immediately, but it is still wondrous to experience the reality of Mr Crawley *not* insisting, with an air of patient condescension, that it is necessary to obtain the signed consents before proceeding with the repair.

Wandsworth's solicitors will be responding separately to my claim for damages. I doubt they will be quite as cooperative; still, again, there is no question of Wandsworth's liability, it is just a matter of agreeing the quantum.

Wednesday, 17 February 2016

Access

A woman from the building contractors, T. Brown, called me this morning. I discovered that the access they want is to actually get on to the scaffolding. Via my flat. The only way onto the scaffolding from my flat is through my bedroom window. This will be very awkward as the scaffold platform is not on a level with the bottom of the window, but halfway up the lower sash, allowing a gap of less than 45cm to squeeze through. The scaffold platform is also 120cm above the bedroom floor. I doubt any of this complies with Health & Safety requirements.

The woman at T. Brown didn't know anything, had just been given my number to call to arrange access. Obviously, Mr Crawley gave my number to T. Brown.

I tried to explain to T. Brown woman that it wasn't the best way to access the scaffold but she didn't understand so I just said fine, come round on Monday morning.

To clarify, this is just about repairing the crack in the external wall, nothing to do with the roof. Nothing's happening with the roof.

Friday, 12 February 2016

Still no sign of the builders

So, the scaffolding went up on Monday 8th Feb, and in spite of unusually dry weather, no sign of the builders all week. 

Mr Crawley had emailed me on 5th Feb, saying: "It is likely that access will be required to your property at certain points while these works are undertaken, and also once they have been completed to confirm that they have been successful. Therefore, I would be grateful if you could advise as to when you might be able to provide access to your home in the next two weeks."

Luckily, I did not go to the trouble of providing him with a two week schedule of my availability. I told him it would be far easier for the contractors to phone me and ask, as and when they needed access. Mr Crawley, unusually, agreed with me. Nobody has phoned me.

It remains unclear why access might be required when they are doing repairs to the outside, nor how they expect to confirm success after competion, when the interior disrepair will look exactly the same.

I haven't asked as I don't care. They can have - and have had - all the access they want. Several times a man from Wandworth has come round, had a look at the sitting room ceiling and confirmed that it's leaking; and then he goes away; and then I get an email from Mr Crawley saying Mr Whoever confirms there's a leak. So that's probably the sort of access the builders want, the Just Having A Look sort.

Here's a photo of the view from my bedroom window on the afternoon of Thursday 11th Feb, demonstrating both the lack of activity and the fine weather.


Wednesday, 10 February 2016

Round Up

The windows were repaired in November 2015. Two panes of glass have cracked in my bedroom window, but I can't prove Wandsworth is liable for the glass. 

Roof continues to leak, most recently with Storm Imogen.

Damp wall continues to be damp. Scaffold went up on Monday 8th Feb - after about five Crawley promises of imminent scaffold erection - , but no building work was carried out on 9th or 10th Feb.

I have instructed solicitors and they have sent a letter of claim to Wandsworth, under the Pre-Action Protocol for Housing Disrepair. I am requiring Wandsworth to do the repairs and I am also claiming damages for disrepair. The deadline for response is 23rd February.