August 18, 2019

Florrie’s Law brings new £15,000 cap on repair bills for council leaseholders

Florence Bourne's case as reported by the Daily Express

Florence Bourne’s case as reported by the Daily Express

The so-called Florrie’s Law introduces a new £15,000 cap on repair bills for local authority leaseholders and will come into force this week.

Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles vowed to introduce the cap after a 93-year-old constituent was landed with a £50,000 bill by her local authority for roof repairs.

Newham Council based its fee on a guess because it had not conducted a proper survey on the first-floor flat. It later emerged the roof would have lasted another 40 years and the work was unnecessary.

The family of Florence Bourne say she “died of shame” because she had never been in debt in her life and simply could not afford to pay the bill for work on her Brentwood home.

Farieda Chandoo challenged Southwarl's £40,000 repair bill, but has ended up with legal bills and other costs that exceed £100,000

Farieda Chandoo challenged Southwarl’s £40,000 repair bill, but has ended up with legal bills and other costs that exceed £100,000

Another “victim” is Farieda Chandoo – an NHS secretary and former nanny to George Osborne – who challenged a £40,000 repair bill from Southwark Council in south London.

She thought the quality of the work – which she showed LKP / Campaign against retirement leasehold exploitation – was appalling.

Two court cases later, she faces total bills – including Southwark’s legal costs – of more than £100,000. Her full story, including video interview, can be found here

Mr Pickles ordered officials at the Department for Communities and Local Government to review legislation governing council house repairs after Florence’s plight was brought to his attention.

Now new directions are being issued to councils and housing associations which will force them to limit the amount they can charge for future major repair, maintenance, or improvement works when they are wholly or partly funded by the government.

Outside London the maximum level will be levied at £10,000 in any five-year period, with a cap of £15,000 for the capital.

Authorities will bear the outstanding costs of work themselves.

Mr Pickles said:

“I was appalled at Florence’s treatment and was determined that no other leaseholder should ever have to endure the stress and hardship she experienced in the final weeks of her life.

“Florence served her country as a WAAF in the Second World War, raised a loving family and believed in paying her way, so to be faced with this excessive fee was more than she could stand.”

Charging excessive amounts for council house repairs not only targets some of the most vulnerable people in society, it can amount to a failure in a local authority’s duty of care.

Under Florrie’s Law local authorities will no longer be able to levy huge bills for future government funded repair work on people who simply have little or no hope of meeting their demands.

The family of Mrs Bourne, a grandmother of 7, described the pensioner as having “old school morality” that disapproved of living in debt.

Her son, Roy Bourne, of Leigh-on-Sea, Essex, said his mother lost weight because she worried about meeting the bill and sobbed at the thought of saddling her family with the debt.

Mrs Bourne died following a heart attack she suffered when she was startled by the sound of falling roof tiles onto her balcony during the proven unnecessary works on the roof.

A leasehold valuation tribunal found last year that Newham Council had not commissioned a proper survey of the flat. An independent surveyor commissioned after Mrs Bourne’s death found the roof would have lasted another 40 years.

Comments

  1. A Reviewer says

    Councils and total lack of accountability.

    Unnecessary works following inadequate inspection [obviously not by a chartered engineer] – and no-one has questioned how the contractor was appointed…. stinks.

  2. I worked for a Local Authority from In 1969 inclusive to 1980 where every March at the end of the financial year an order would go out to spend the full Budget.

    The reason was that if the Full Budget was not spent then the all the underspend would be lost.

    This would also mean that the underspend would also be e.g. £5000.00 would also be taken from the following years budget?

    This double whammy meant that the Managers would begin in Jan/Feb arranging to spend this money.

    The easiest way was to introduce contracts to re-roof houses/flats or replace timber fencing in one or two roads anything to show an over spend, which was tolerated and means that the next years budget is maintained.

    This could have been why it was re-roofed and no survey was undertaken?

  3. The roofs on flats that are pitched should have a life span of 100 years?

    Of course some tiles/slates delaminate and fail or the roof leaks and Wet/Dry Rot can devastate the timbers within the roof?

    Some have failed due to poor design or poor construction, that is when the Drawings/Plans can be checked at the Local Building Control or with the NHBC, who since 1964/5 checked Drawings /Plans and were responsible for checking the Design and Structural Calculations.

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