Stamford Hill Estate leaseholders ‘sickened’ after being told to pay up to £35k each for roof repairs

A group of leaseholders on Stamford Hill Estate. Photograph: Maya Sall

Leaseholders on Stamford Hill Estate are locked in a feud with their housing association after being handed a bill of up to £35,000 each for roof repairs.

The residents have told Southern Housing that they should not be liable for the brunt of the costs, which they believe are due to historic neglect and mismanagement of the estate.

Leaseholders from flats in the Malvern, Quantock, and Wicklow blocks have voiced their concerns about paying out a “life-changing” amount of money, but say their complaints have fallen on deaf ears.

The residents say they were notified of the repairs on 8 March and were told they could take part in a month-long consultation process by Southern Housing.

They say this resulted in one online consultation during which they put more than 30 questions to Southern representatives.

However, the leaseholders say their asks were met with deflection and indifference.

Southern Housing says this meeting “included a detailed presentation of the proposals”.

The Citizen has seen the PowerPoint presentation in question. It is 14 slides long, with five of these limited to introductions and a map of the estate.

Leaseholders requested another meeting before the consultation process ended on 8 April, but say their requests were ignored.

“Whenever we got in touch, they would always tell us that the relevant people were on holiday due to the Easter break, and therefore a follow-up meeting couldn’t be organised – that’s if they responded at all,” said Kim Coleman, who contacted the Citizen about the roof charges.

“They didn’t have to choose this as the time to conduct the consultation”, she continued. “It feels like they’ve done this deliberately.”

The Citizen put this accusation to Southern, but it declined to respond.

“We’ve not even been told exactly what they’re fixing,” said one leaseholder who attended the meeting.

A resident from Malvern House added: “We’ve had issues with the roof for ages – leaks, gutters not being cleaned, and flooding on the pavements.

“Southern Housing never responds to our complaints, and now it feels like they’re doing one big fix to cover up for historic negligence.”

The Citizen asked Southern what repairs will be made to the roof, but it again declined to respond.

One of the prevailing issues that leaseholders have is the uncertainty over the final cost.

“The figures they’ve given us are ‘provisional’, and [Southern Housing] has said that we’d be liable if the costs go up,” said another leaseholder.

“I’m a contractor – I know that these costs won’t be the final amount, but we’ve got no idea how much money we could be parting with.”

Diane Abbott, MP for Hackney North and Stoke Newington, has contacted Southern Housing to “challenge the quotation”, and is in touch with the leaseholders.

However, her caseworker said that “she does not have the executive authority to overrule contractual matters.”

Cazenove councillor Sam Pallis has also offered his support to residents.

The costs for the repairs were calculated in 2017, after Southern conducted its initial assessment of the roof.

“None of it makes any sense, but why they’ve waited seven years to start something they secured a contractor and a quote for is very bizarre,” a leaseholder said.

The Citizen asked Southern Housing what caused the delay, but did not get an answer.

In a statement, the housing association said: “We’ve kept our Stamford Hill residents fully informed about our investigation into the roof of their building.

“Our thorough investigation confirmed the roof needed to be replaced and we shared this news with residents in November 2023.”

It added: “We’ve been open and transparent with our residents about the reasons for this essential repair work and have given them a detailed breakdown of the costs.

“We’ve fully complied with our legal obligation for consultation with leaseholders as required by Section 20. We will remain in contact with our residents and we’ll be arranging another meeting.

“We can support our leaseholders to deal with the large expenses that sometimes come with owning their own home, including allowing those on lower incomes up to 10 years to repay the costs.

“We would urge any leaseholders concerned about these costs to get in touch with us and we’ll discuss their circumstances on an individual basis.”

The leaseholders maintain that they had no communication from Southern, and no indication about the proposed repairs, until they received the letter notifying them of the costs on 8 March this year.

They said: “Southern Housing’s recent media statement on this issue is further evidence of their refusal to listen to residents and properly engage with and respond to our concerns.

“This is not a case of naive leaseholders unwilling to pay their share, as this patronising statement seems to suggest.

“We have serious concerns about inflated costs, historic lack of maintenance, opaque procurement procedures, and unnecessary scale of works.

“Southern Housing’s claims of transparency bear no relation to our experience, and our repeated requests for specific pieces of information have been ignored.”

Southern has offered residents a discount if they can pay the full amount upfront, but none of the leaseholders the Citizen spoke to said that was an option for them.

Instead, they have been offered a 10-year repayment plan, which means forking out up to £200 a month.

“In the meeting, I asked what will happen if I can’t repay the amount within 10 years, and they didn’t have an answer for me,” said one leaseholder.

The Citizen also put this question to Southern Housing, but it did not respond.

“I really don’t know how I’m going to afford it – they’ve already put service charge up to £90 a month,” said a resident who has calculated that she’ll be paying over £500 a month on utility bills and leaseholder expenses.

“It makes me feel sick,” she continued. “People think that because we’re leaseholders, we’re rich – but that’s not the case.

“We’ve worked hard to scrape together the money for our flats, and now it’s being thrown back in our face.”

There were nods and words of agreement from the other leaseholders present.

She added: “Moving is expensive, I can’t afford to do that, and that £30,000 has gone from the value of my flat anyway.”

The group talked about the impact that the loss of money is having on their lives, and on the other residents of the Stamford Hill Estate.

“When I read the letter, I just laughed. That amount of money is just ridiculous. How else are you meant to react when your blindsided by that?” another leaseholder said.

“I was thinking of starting a small business – that won’t be happening now,” he continued. “And my neighbours were thinking of getting married but said they can’t afford a wedding now.”

Kim Coleman spoke of her neighbour, a retired nurse in her seventies, who now has a young lodger to cover the costs.

“She’s worked hard her whole life, now is meant to be her time to rest.”

Several leaseholders said that tenants on the estate have also been informed of increases to their rent, which they attribute to the cost of the roof repairs.

“As a housing association, Southern does nothing to look after their residents,” said Coleman.

“We’ve had so many issues with their management that we even have a saying: ‘they’re disorganised at best, and evil at worst’.”

She continued: “But this is really something else – this is far beyond ‘the worst’.”