Residents in flats at Ramsgate’s Royal Crescent buildings say they are in shock after discovering they are likely to face repair bills from Thanet District Council (TDC) of some £200,000 each.
Residents were told of the extraordinary costs in a letter sent to them by the council last week. This stated that leaseholders in one block will face estimated bills of between £177,000 and £217,000 while those in the second property will fork out between £94,000 and £164,000.. The residents say it was only when they scrutinised the details more closely that it became clear that this amount was not for the whole block, but for each property.
The council owns two parts of the Grade II listed property in St Augustine’s Road, from numbers 4-15 and 19-23.
These are divided into 16 and six flats respectively, of which 12 are tenanted -so will not be billed – and 10 sold as leasehold, under the right-to-buy legislation.
It is leaseholders who face paying a share of a huge £2.778million repair bill across the two sites. This means three properties will be due to pay up in numbers 19-23 and seven in 4-15.
Three phase plan
Thanet council says it needs to carry out essential structural works and passive fire works to both buildings.
Due to the age, heritage value, risk and complexity of the property, the delivery of the programme will span over three to four years and the council has appointed specialist consultants in the lead up to putting the job out to tender.
A document to council Cabinet members, who will discuss the issue tomorrow (April 29) says the current pre-tender cost projection for the whole project is £2.778m.
This cost breaks down as:
Phase 1 (2021-22 and 2022-23): £2.023m
Phase 2 (2023/24): £235k
Phase 3 (2023/24): £520k
Phase 1 will include structural repairs, water tightness and passive fire measures to the main structures, refurbishment as necessary of the roofs and downpipes, repairs/refurbishment of the doors and windows, balconies and external decorations.
The document says: “These works are considered to be essential, these will address current health and safety risks posed to the residents as the balconies are currently unstable and are supported by scaffolding.”
Phase 2 works are also considered to be essential, although less urgent, and will include extensive repairs and modifications to boundary walls, structural elements of the basements and courtyard areas.
Proposed phase 3 works are considered to be optional. This will include a review for future uses of the basement areas, such as repairs and improvements to the shared areas or closing the basements off, with only essential repairs completed.
Costs to leaseholders
Cabinet members are asked to approve funding for the repairs and are told that the council will “recharge legitimate costs to leaseholders.”
The report says the leaseholders will “become liable for substantial contributions to the costs,” adding that these could be as high as “£177k to £217k for the block at 19-23 Royal Crescent and £94k to £164k for the block at 4-15 Royal Crescent.”
In normal circumstances these costs would be invoiced to leaseholders during the financial year following the completion of the works. However the large amounts involved mean a lump sum payment is not realistic.
Instead Thanet council is proposing that leaseholders pay off the bill in instalments across a number of years with a voluntary legal charge registered against the property or have a legal charge registered against the property, requiring repayment in the event of the flat being sold.
A consultation with residents at the properties will be carried out regarding the repair contracts.
‘Left with nothing’
But leaseholders say the repair bills are almost as much as the flats are worth, rendering any plan to sell impossible.
Leaseholder Jeremy Millar, who has lived at his flat for more than five years, said: “It looks like the council is trying to make it easier for us but the charge would mean we can’t sell anyway.
“The idea that this is feasible is not fair on us as individuals but also for Ramsgate residents because that money is not going to be paid back when it means we can’t sell and that means the council is saddled with the debt.”
Another leaseholder added: “For years I wanted a dream home by the sea, and the council’s actions would now make it effectively worthless. I’d be left with nothing.”
Jeremy says the initial letter was badly written, making it hard to understand the amounts involved and providing no clarity on the scope of the works or how such an astronomical cost had been reached.
The university lecturer said leaseholders were also dumbfounded at the way they have been told, just days before the council meeting where a decision is due to be made.
Jeremy said: “This is a really life-changing amount and there really should have been more care about how we were treated. It has been a really tough year for everyone and this letter could be a tipping point, it is such a shock. There should be a process in place to do these things properly and we are not sure it has been. I would hope the council would be a little more thoughtful and considerate in the future.”
Jeremy says although residents do not dispute work needs to take place, and in fact have been asking for repairs to be carried out for several years now, they are bewildered at how such a large cost has been reached. He added: “The level is extraordinary, it is the cost of a rebuild not repairs.”
The residents have now formed the Royal Crescent Action Group to oppose the scheme and to ensure that they receive fair treatment.
They have also gathered support from ward councillors, who will be questioning if such expense is justifiable at the present time.
If councillors agree the proposal the action group says it will “leave many people financially ruined.”
Worst case scenario
A Thanet council spokesperson said: “The report going to Cabinet for decision is to enter into a new contract of essential structural works in two buildings within the historic Royal Crescent, Ramsgate.
“The report states that if repair works are not carried out, the building will deteriorate which will impact on the conditions of the flats and their value. The costs presented in the report are estimated and represent the worst case scenario but the fact that these regency buildings are of significant heritage value and Grade II listed does have an impact.
“We understand that the costs are high and this is why there is the offer for leaseholders to accept a charge against their property so that they do not have to pay anything unless they sell. There will also be a consultation process with leaseholders, known as a Section 20 consultation. In addition, the report makes provision for the council to write off these amounts if there is insufficient equity or other funds and payment would cause financial hardship.”
Thanet council says every leaseholder would receive personalised estimates in advance and then actual accounts the year after works are completed with actual costs.
The meeting takes place at 5.30pm.
Thanet Council, the gift that keeps giving.
Just lost for words at how inept this council are.
To say tdc, at both ends of the spectrum are completely useless, is an understatement.
Demand action from council from “essential” world
Council accept works need to to completed
Council invoice tjose responsible to pay for costs
Those invoiced upset because they think everyone owes them the cost of improvements to their own properties
Those demanding action now attack those who have planned the action they wanted as they will (god forbid) have to pay for it.
That is Thanet all over!!
Genuinely sad, as one person in the piece said, they always dreamed of a place by the sea, so long as they don’t have to pay for it.
Wise Merlin – wise words from you. Check conditions before making a purchase. Cannot expect local rate payers to stomp up for these repairs. Check check and check again lease conditions.
It seems that the council is proposing work that goes far beyond what leaseholders having been asking for, though.
Of course leaseholders should pay reasonable costs, but a repair bill which is as much as a rebuild bill, and is almost as much as the value of the flat could hardly be considered reasonable. Why would it cost over £200K to replace windows, doors, and guttering? Seems fishy to me, especially as they council haven’t published the survey.
As a former member of the Chartered Institute of Building, who has carried out countless mortgage valuation surveys, amongst other things, I can tell anyone thinking of buying a property to abide by three rules: 1) Never buy a flat. 2) Never buy a flat. 3) Never buy a flat.
And the secret property imperative;
NEVER BUY A FLAT
There haven’t been that many leasehold properties sold in the block recently but developers have properties on the market there currently, a 3 bed flat has a price tag of £500,000. In 2013 a flat at number 4 was bought for £79,000, shouldn’t the leasehold expect to meet their share of the costs to repair and secure the future of this listed building?
The value of the properties in question are half that.
It’s right that leaseholders pay reasonable costs, but a repair bill which is as much as a rebuild bill, and almost the value of the property itself? That sounds fishy to me.
Grade II refurbishment costs are not cheap.
No, but it is interesting that the private developer spent far less on completely refurbishing the empty shells at 18–19, and no doubt to a far higher quality, than the council is proposing to spend on repairs to these two blocks, and that includes a new building on St Augustine’s Rd.
Also, given their listed status, why has the council not applied to the govt or Historic England, or some other agency for these repairs?
Never buy anything leasehold.
There was a comment on another site that suggested Thanet Council delayed essential repairs in the past which has now made the situation much worse. On one hand, it’s right that leaseholders contribute but, if they are having to pay more for repairs now purely because TDC have been tardy in addressing repairs and maintenance, then that’s something entirely different.
This needs government helped compulsory purchase – in the long term this would be very good use of these listed buildings for the benefit of Thanet and the TDC
Projected costs are not always ACTUAL costs. It would be interesting to see the actual specification, where the budget costs came from and also understand how much of the Fire Work was mandatory following a risk assessment? What works have been carried out on site over the past ten years or so and what are the terms of the Leases? Listed Buildings are expensive to maintain!
Yes, but it is interesting that the private developer spent far less on completely refurbishing the empty shells at 18–19, and no doubt to a far higher quality, than the council is proposing to spend on repairs to these two blocks, and that includes a new building on St Augustine’s Rd.
Also, given their listed status, why has the council not applied to the govt or Historic England, or some other agency for these repairs?
And why has the council not published the specification to which they’re working? Hard to see how it can cost almost as much to repair a building — replacing windows etc. — as it would to rebuild it.
It cannot be right, or fair, that people who buy a leasehold flat are legally responsible for building repair costs that were not addressed in the past. This is what a sinking fund would pay for. Why has this building freeholder not got a sinking fund to meet the bills, a fund that everyone pays into over the years and which accrues over time. Standard stuff.
I’ve had several leasehold flats. The issue isn’t the flat, it is how well (or badly) the freehold is being managed that is the issue. To clobber people with these huge bills can only indicate that the freehold has not been properly managed and if the Council IS the freeholder then they are accountable for the cost of this neglect common sense would suggest.
However, due to the lack of protection in our archaic leasehold laws, the current leaseholders will be on the hook which will be horrifically distressing and shocking I am sure.
The same thing is happening up and down the country to leaseholders now on the hook for huge bills associated with cladding/Grenfell which is also not something anyone buying a leasehold flat would have reasonably been able to anticipate.
Better freehold management and better leasehold legislation is clearly required. I really feel for all those who bought in this block.
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Couldn’t agree more. Works including major works are meant to be carried out regularly. For works to be that costly – it would be due to the freeholder neglecting the property long term.
And to avoid buying a flat cannot be the realistic solution, although I agree with the caution and sentiment.
I have bought flats because that is all I could afford.
A few years ago in West London. Leaseholders were asked to stump up £40k per flat to change rusting metal crittal windows in an art deco block. Once you get involved with la. Just give them a blank cheque. All the money goes on paperwork not to the tradesman doing the work.
The decision is to be made tomorrow by the cabinet? Does that mean that the business plan for managing this Grade II asset has been considered and agreed by councillors at some earlier stage?
Otherwise, under Thanet Council’s constitution, which I frankly believe is undemocratic and designed to limit the influence of elected members to a minimum, it probably means that most of the people we elected to run our council will have been excluded from the whole process. So the fact that they will not have seen the evidence or have had time to think about it doesn’t matter.
Time for a change?
TDC planning department makes up the rules to suit itself and certainly does not like elected members being involved. This department stinks, it disregards policies that do not fit its agenda and treats the public like it has no business challenging or asking questions.
In the case of the Old British Legion , it was our new interim leader that was the instigator forcing the plans thtough asap ignoring any objection or nicety of planning and listed building law. Conveniently being the ward councillor there was no one to put it to committee.
The leaseholders will have an argument on the grounds of neglected maintenance resulting in dilapidation and excessive deterioration, wether they have the will and funds to pursue this is another matter. As for the “passive fire protection” this is likely to include works to bring the building in compliance with the 2005 fire safety regs, again the council have used the legislation which has provision for delaying work until “major works “ are undertaken, this is a double edged sword as it encourages the council to put off all work and means that when finally done the cost is dramtically increased.
Allowing a building to deteriorate to such a degree is negligence , does the council have sufficient reserves for its portion of the costs or will this need additional borrowing or further asset sales. How many other similar liabilities does the council have ?
Your last question LC is a really good one. TDC has been mismanaged and badly led for many years. Who knows how many other bodies are buried and where?
If the residents are expected to pay, surely they should be entitled to seek estimates from contractors of their choosing and not be forced to accept TDC’s appointed contractors?
The leaseholders will have been served a sec20 notice ( i think that’s the right one) advising them of the works intended and theoretically lets the leasholders put forward contractors. But there will be no real detail of whats intended and the councils list of wants from contractors npneans that in essence the tenders come from a pretty small group of companies that are able to tick all the boxes. The costs are similarly high.
The council will no doubt use a “ herigate architect/ consultant” to oversea the works and their fees will be around 12% plus vat of the contract values. Then there’ll be the initial tender documents to be prepared. No doubt lots of unexpected extras, plus the cost multiplier of it being a listed building.
Leaseholders need to get some proper legal advice. Assuming this is being overseen by the new “ housing dept” created after the failure of eask kent housing., it’ll be a complete farce.
It’ll be interesting to see if the works are done to the same “ every corner cut and penny saved” approach that the council let Paramount alter the Old British legion to.
I can smell a Rat ,, Thanet council at it again ,,,,
Sadly we don’t foresee such huge bills when we buy a leasehold flat. It’s highly likely that the buyers of these flats will have seen the service charge figures for previous years, and considered them when buying….then wham….massive unpredicted bills arrive. It is the right of the residents to obtain quotes from companies of their choice, which could reduce the totals. I would also be checking the council paperwork is correct, as in my experience they’re not so thorough as they should be.
Most of these buildings have been allowed to deteriorate to a shocking degree, and for that TDC should accept the lion’s share of responsibility. The buildings formerly were elegant and a credit to the town, built by an outstanding architect of national significance. If TDC require support from HMG to enable the repairs and renovations to take place, fine, but when push comes to shove it is TDC’s bad housekeeping that is to blame. Time after time, the local authority shirks its responsibilities but shafts others. Lazy and inept elected Councillors have been bullied, misled and haven’t bothered to do due diligence. It would be sensible for the elected Members to defer their decision until such time as they have received timely and expert advice from Heritage England and from charitable bodies like the Society for the Protection of Historic Buildings. Forget about getting any useful advice from Thanet District Council’s Conservation Officers: they’ve been offering poor advice and neglecting to make a fuss about the Council’s neglect of duties of care in relation to listed buildings, their curtilages, and conservation areas for decades. If the leaseholders are to be held responsible for these costs as the Council clearly intends, then clearly they must also be shielded from any prospect of increases in their leases that would take into account the rise in value of their properties by reason of the works done at the Council’s behest. The worst possible outcome, however, would be for the properties to fall into further disrepair as has happened on previous occasions in the past when no one was prepared to meet the costs. On one point, I hope all will be agreed: the external appearance of the buildings should be restored to one that is uniform (in colour, windows, doors, fanlights, archetectural ironmongery, etc., as occurs in other classic historic crescents, rather than be left to the whims of individual leaseholders who have spoilt the unity of the whole crescent by putting their own individual stamp on their individual homes. Sadly, not all leaseholders are well-informed about the extent to which individual works on different parts of listed buildings can greatly reduce the value of the whole.
In Parliament today,the Commons has been considering what measures should be taken against landlords who gouge their tenants in requiring leaseholders and other tenants to bear the costs of repairs that ought to fall on the landlords. Good. Councillors, take note!
I’m honestly baffled by the council’s approach to this. It seems like they’ve left the buildings to rot and repairs do need to be done. The leaseholders need to pay their fair share of this, but surely the eye-watering costs of the proposed works and how much individuals are being told to cough up, will mean that the council will never get the money back?
If the value of the flats are the same or only a bit more than the repair bill how could anyone sell them? They’ll be left with nothing. So it will end up with council-tax payers footing the bill in the end, and with people’s lives terribly affected.
It just seems crazy to me.
The newly formed Royal Crescent Action Group must seek legal advice now and fund raise for legal representation as they alone will safeguard their interests not TDC. Dr Pritchard above talks a lot of sense.
I believe there is a solicitor called Paul Barnes based in Walworth road London who may be able to offer advice.as he specialises in such matters as these
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