Homeowners mount legal challenge against Hackney Council

Hackney leaseholders unite. Rachel Blain right foreground. Picture by Tony Gay

Hackney leaseholders unite. Rachel Blain right foreground. Picture by Tony Gay - Credit: Archant

A band of homeowners is mounting a legal challenge against Hackney Council – fearing that bosses are trying to erode their right to have a say on who does work to their homes.

The residents all own the lease to their council homes and therefore have to pay for any work ordered for their buildings by the council.

They are horrified that the council is trying to get special legal dispensation to enter into a long-term contract with its own arms-length management organisation to repair and decorate the borough’s homes.

Residents say this could result in the council no longer having to consult with them before appointing building contractors – and that this could set a precedent for councils up and down the country.

Rachel Blain, 34, a charity worker who lives off Pownall Road, South Hackney, said: “As leaseholders, we are worried that, if the council wins, we’ll lose the right to be consulted on who carries out potentially expensive work on our properties.”

Sue Benjamins, 65, a retired chartered surveyor who his acting for her Hackney leaseholder son, said: “We know we have to pay for the work but we want our right to have a say not to be eroded.”

Hackney Council wants to carry out painting, decorating and repairs to its housing stock.

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For the next three to five years it wants Hackney Homes – a company set up by the council to manage its properties – to do the work under a type of contract called a qualifying long-term agreement.

The law says leaseholders must be consulted before the council enters into such long-term agreements – and the council insists it has done this.

However, the law also states that a council may only enter into a such an agreement with a “wholly independent organisation”.

Hackney Council has now taken the case to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal, asking it to agree that Hackney Homes is an independent company and not a “subsidiary” of the council.

Failing that, it wants it to grant a special dispensation allowing it to still enter into the agreement. The council insists it is not trying to avoid consulting with leaseholders.

The leaseholders – who believe Hackney Homes may not offer best value for money – fear that if the dispensation is granted they may in future lose their right to be consulted over which contractors are picked.

The hearing is to take place in June.

A Hackney Council spokeswoman said: “All leaseholders have been given the opportunity to inspect documents and have also been invited to make written representations. The council is drafting responses. Leaseholders will continue to be consulted throughout this process.”