Cabinet members at Thanet council have approved proposals to put out to tender a contract for repair works to flats at Ramsgate’s Royal Crescent buildings which could see leaseholders facing significant costs.
Leaseholders in one block will face estimated worst case scenario bills of between £177,000 and £217,000 while those in the second property could fork out between £94,000 and £164,000..
However, the contract price for the costs will now be referred to an independent body to assess and make recommendation on the proportion to be paid by leaseholders, deputy leader Helen Whitehead told the meeting this evening (April 29).
The council owns the freehold of 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. Six of these properties are sub-let.
The leaseholders face paying a share of an estimated £2.778 million 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.
Thanet council says it needs to carry out essential structural works and passive fire works to both buildings, which are Grade II listed.
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 says the current pre-tender cost projection for the whole project is £2.778m and includes essential structural repairs, water tightness and fire safety measures. This sum could be lower once tender bids are received.
The council will “recharge legitimate costs to leaseholders,” giving them the choice of paying off the bill in instalments across a number of years with a voluntary legal charge registered against the property or of having a legal charge registered against the property, requiring repayment in the event of the flat being sold.
At a meeting this evening (April 29) the measures were agreed subject to approval of full council.
Ward councillor Becky Wing spoke at the meeting but was not entitled to vote as she is not a Cabinet member.
She said the costs were a “serious, life-changing” amount and outlined leaseholders concerns at a lack of communication, historic neglect of the building and a lack of detail around the scope of works.
Cllr Wing asked for the decision to be delayed until leaseholders had been met and consulted with but acting council leader Helen Whitehead said approval to go out to tender had to be agreed before the stage of consultation could take place.
She said delaying a vote would: “Delay significant and fundamental works that need to happen to the blocks.”
Director of Housing, Bob Porter, said residents in the blocks would receive monthly newsletters about the project on top of any meetings with council staff and members.
Cllr Whitehead said that the costs to leaseholders was something the council was “acutely aware of” and to give “a greater degree of surety” the charges would be referred to the First Tier Land Tribunal for scrutiny. The tribunal is an independent body that deals with settling of disputes in relation to leasehold property and the private rented sector.
The Tribunal will then recommend the proportion of charge for leaseholders. Cabinet members agreed to the measure of recharging after this independent review to recommend the amount to be billed.
Leaseholders at the two blocks have formed the Royal Crescent Action Group to oppose the scheme.
Resident Jeremy Millar said tenants and leaseholders do not dispute work needs to take place, and in fact have been asking for repairs to be carried out for several years, but 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.”
Cllr Whitehead pledged that carrying out of the project would be ‘transparent’ and consultation would take place as soon as possible once the move to put the contract out to tender had been agreed.