We Take Control via Right to Manage!
I had already attended a number of meetings held by various leasehold organisations and the one that was the turning point for Wellington Mansions was held by the Campaign for the Abolition of Leasehold (CARL) in 2006. I took my partner to this one and we were both impressed by the talk about buildings insurance given by guest speaker Roger Southam of managing agent Chainbow. At the end of his talk he asked the audience if they had any questions and jokingly my partner asked ‘will you come and manage our block please? He invited us to come and chat to him at the informal drinks that were held after the meeting and to our complete surprise he agreed to take us on!
To be honest it was one hell of an anti-climax after all the effort that had been put in to that point to get any help and we wished we had met him years earlier!
Everything started to happen all at once because after that we finally met the criteria for the Right to Manage which Roger Southam guided us through, starting with forming the company (where my partner agreed to become one of the company Directors).
It was also agreed that as I had by far the most experience with regard to leasehold matters that I should be the one to instruct the managing agents on behalf of the new company Directors.
We had to have a service charge budget set from scratch as we inherited nothing from the previous freeholder and we also commissioned a Building Condition Report as since the HHSRS survey carried out by the council at my request (twice) some years previously, it was obvious that the deteroration to the building would have worsened.
The following photographs are works that we carried in the early years and which were of a priority and a necessity.
So finally we started work on the roof and the water tanks to try and save our home. The following photographs show their shocking state.
Clearing the roof and carrying out patch repairs was all we could do in the early days, which was like trying to plug holes in a great big sieve!
This is the roof and water tanks with the roof having been replaced in segments and the water tank houses having been dismantled, the rotting timber and damage stop cocks replaced and the tank houses re-built. The water was also later disinfected with silver peroxide, which breaks down into the water over a few hours.
We had been looking to provide safety measures for our block for a long time because a number of flats had been broken into. This was scary enough but it got a lot worse when some of our so-called ‘rogue’ landlords handed over their flats to the local authorities. Not only were myself and my partner subjected to violence by anti-social tenants but also by their anti-social friends when we tried to deal with disturbances in the common areas (our remit). At the time we were the only security the block had.
However, after working with our company solicitor and successfully getting a lender to pay the arrears of a leaseholder who had (up to then) continually refused to pay, we were finally able to have CCTV installed. Granted, not everywhere at once due to financial constraints but as in a many places as was affordable.
Having external lighting installed was carried out in tandem alongside the works to the roof and water tanks as the existing wiring and the few lights that had been installed in the dim and distant past were in a right mess, with exposed wiring on stairwells and bits of foil dishes dotted around the place. There was some light coming from the main road at the front of the building but the stairwell was very dark and gloomy and at the rear of the block it was virtually pitch black. A tenant actually broke both ankles on the front stairwell and we constantly had to deal with the drunken behaviour and drug taking of some of the (then) tenants and their friends under the cover of darkness.
We couldn’t afford to get every single light the building needed at this stage but we did get installed as many as we could at the time. We were so pleased when a number of residents said how much safer they felt, including the family speaking for an elderly and unwell tenant who lived on the ground floor where it was darkest.
Whilst we were working on our remit, that of the common areas, we were also working on anther side to block management: that of dealing with uncontrolled subletting and the involvement of local authorities.