Thursday, April 05, 2018


Leaseholders and taxpayers in London have been hoodwinked into paying thousands of pounds for fire-safety measures that are 'not to the necessary standard'. According to details contained in board minutes of Lewisham Homes at least. A discovery that may see the arms-length management organisation in the dock...again. TheBigRetort exclusive.

In my last post I reported that Andrew Potter CEO of Lewisham Homes was due to decamp to greener pastures at Hastoe Housing Association. Meanwhile... back in concrete city, board papers dated August 2017 reveal that six thousand two hundred composite fire-safety doors recently installed into properties managed by his former south-east London Almo may not be up to the necessary fire safety standard.

The shock finding, unearthed by TheBigRetort, follows threats by Lewisham Homes to prosecute leaseholders if they do not change their own flat entrance doors - which the managing agent has “deemed” unsafe. 

Potter himself was "uncertain" about the legality of this. However, according to board minutes, Lewisham Homes' own fire-safety door debacle assessment is to take 'over a year to complete'.  

So homeowners may be forgiven for not forking out thousands of pounds in pursuit of the Lewisham Homes Standard so readily. A standard the ALMO itself has failed to achieve with its new safety doors. In addition to the hundreds of thousands of pounds spent under Lewisham Homes' thinly disguised vanity venture, many leaseholders are asking if the "improvements" are actually necessary. 

Time alone will tell... but the move may have led to tens of millions of pounds of frivolous overspending of public cash. 

Many of the doors to Lewisham Homes' street property conversions were introduced under the old building control pre-1991 regulations. Then, flat entrance doors were rated between twenty to thirty minutes fire resistance. (FD20 to FD30 in the trade.) Which is still acceptable.

Leaseholders may be surprised to learn that this has been withheld because building control records have been mislaid for many of these former conversions.

Homeowners are encouraged, under the threat of legal sanction, to simply replace doors; whatever the cost... Or else. It “may”. You never know - serve a nasty injunction.

If all of the six thousand two hundred new doors are actually proven to be deficient, the cost of replacement to the taxpayer may end up reaching... over twelve million pounds.

So, what the hell, pass the cost to leaseholders. 

In order to subsidise another mistake, Lewisham Homes, having spent taxpayer funding via its decent homes scheme - somewhere in the hundreds of millions, and counting - will no doubt employ its usual open-palmed approach, and target leaseholders. It is leaseholders who will be forced to pay directly for this largesse. Many are already straining under bloated service charge requests for so-called “repairs”. In the Lewisham Homes lexicon interchangeable with "improvements". 

Some leases allow for improvements: some don't.

Before contacting elected representatives, leaseholders should study the lease. Whilst older leases may not actually allow for improvements to be charged back, others do. Lewisham Homes seems to be unaware of this. Whatever... any lease should ensure that such charges are always "reasonable". The reason why perhaps Lewisham Homes now claims that many of its improvement works are not “repairs” - having presented them under its Decent Homes programme for years, as... improvements. 

Lewisham Homes refuses to respond to requests for further details on its front door debacle. Councillors and MPs have been alerted... but they seem content playing a game of  ping-pong with TheBigRetort.  But the May election is fast approaching....

The Big Retort on doors... Guidance from the Building Control Alliance allows for the retention of FD20 doors. This is widely accepted practice throughout England. Providing a sufficient level of protection to escape routes within dwellings are present. It is also accepted - without objection - from the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG). The government department which oversees Building Regulations. Indeed this has been the case for many years; allowing the use of such doors 'unsupported by fire tests or independent certification'. 

In short: 'reasonable compliance' is all that is required.

That comes in the form of a reasonably robust door. And not necessarily a fire door. 

But it isn't just a gentle tap on that dodgy door you may have to watch out for...  it's smokescreens.