Hammersmith & FulhamNews

Tower block tenants being hit with ‘exorbitant ‘ 20k bills for new windows

By Ben Lynch, Local Democracy Reporter

Leaseholders living in a Shepherd’s Bush tower block have been told they will have to pay up to £21,500 for replacement windows an independent surveyor deemed to be unnecessary.

Residents are contesting the bill from Hammersmith and Fulham council, which they say is ‘exorbitant’ during a cost of living crisis.

Annabel Diaz, 39, who works for the NHS, accused the council of having ‘no sympathy for the leaseholders’, adding she believed the cost to be ‘unreasonable’.

The west London authority however said it is required to replace the windows, last upgraded in the 1990s, due to them reaching the end of their lifecycle.

The council added the windows will be replaced in aluminium, offering a longer lifespan, and will deliver benefits including better insulation and lower ongoing repair costs.

It is also charging leaseholders ‘only’ 49 per cent of the total building safety works being undertaken at the block, and offering ‘sympathetic payment options’.

Residents living in Verulam House were told in 2022 that unsafe cladding was due to be removed from the building, which would be paid for by the Government, and that scaffolding would be erected.

The council, which is the freeholder, also said it would be replacing the windows, due to them being ‘end of life’.

The majority of those living in the block are social tenants, and so are not liable to pay for works such as new windows. The 25 leaseholders, under Right to Buy rules, meanwhile do have to contribute towards the costs.

Verulam House, in Shepherd’s Bush (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

However, an independent survey, completed in December 2023 on five of the leasehold flats, concluded windows and doors “are not reaching the end of their useful life and do not need to be replaced”.

The report added the rubber seals in some of the windows require maintenance, though they do not constitute major defects. It estimated the cost of repairing the three windows and one door identified would be ‘in the region of £500-£1,000.

A risk assessment completed by the council, valid from October 2022 until October 2024, also “did not identify any conspicuous features or fixings that would adversely affect the level of risk at the premises”.

Asked about the survey conducted for the leaseholders, the council pointed to a number of limitations noted in the report, including that it “does not cover in detail Health and Safety and Statutory Compliance matters”, and that “unless stated, no detailed specialist surveys have been carried out”.

Councillor Helen Rowbottom contacted the local authority earlier this year, raising concerns about leaseholders considering selling their homes due to the bills. “Many are simply unable to pay that amount of money; it is equivalent to their annual income,” she wrote, and requested the works be paused.

Antonella Salamone – another tenant of Verulam House left with a worrying bill (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

Diego Bertoni, 40, chairman of the tenants’ association, said leaseholders have already been charged up to £20,000 over the last five years for works including a new lift and roof repairs.

Ms Diaz said: “These major projects are extremely expensive and unnecessary. [We face] exorbitant fees, poor value for money, and lack of transparency over what leaseholders are paying for. The council could have explored alternative, cheaper options to lessen the impact of the higher major works costs on householders.”

Antonella Salamone, 55, who works in security at Heathrow Airport, said: “I’m not happy,” she said. “I’m being treated like nobody cares about it.”

A Hammersmith and Fulham spokesman said: “We have a legal duty as a landlord to ensure our buildings are safe and kept in good repair for all residents.

“Building safety works are already being undertaken at no cost to leaseholders and they are only being requested for a 49 per cent contribution to the total costs of the work to Verulam House.

“To assist and support homeowners, the council offers sympathetic repayment options.”

Pictured top: Diego Bertoni, with his wife Cristina Marin and daughter (Picture: Facundo Arrizabalaga)

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