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Cwmbran residents win battle with Bron Afon homes over £280,000 repair bill

Source: http://m.southwalesargus.co.uk/news/11501371.Cwmbran_residents_win_battle_with_Bron_Afon_homes_over__pound_280_000_repair_bill/

RESIDENTS of a Cwmbran tower block will not have to foot a £285,000 bill for external wall insulation (EWI) demanded by a Torfaen housing association, after a tribunal ruled in their favour.

Leaseholders of flats in the town’s Monmouth House were asked in 2012 by Bron Afon Community Housing to pay hefty bills for repairs to the property, including the aforementioned sum.

Lessees were asked to pay a contribution of between £11,129.47 and £27,823.67 depending on the size of their flats, the effect being to put some into negative equity.

They disputed the charge for EWI, claiming that – unlike the other work, which included a new roof and windows – this was not a repair to the building, but an improvement, which under the terms of their leases, they did not not have to fund.

Now, a leasehold valuation tribunal (LVT) has determined that they are right, reducing their overall bills by around 35 per cent.

Thirty-five of the 56 flats in Monmouth House are leased by Bron Afon, with the remaining 21 being privately owned.

Leaseholders have welcomed the decision, but say the issue has been emotionally draining for many, and others will face similar battles in the future.

One of their number, Keith James, said the case has caused “three years of psychological trauma for the leaseholders.”

“Monmouth House leaseholders, despite the very considerable legal costs they incurred, have some satisfaction in that justice has been done,” he said.

“It is a matter of regret however, and a failure of the political system that at present, every individual case will have to be fought, when the problem is a general one – that registered social landlords are or feel pressured by the Welsh Government to make immediate improvements that are unanticipated and cannot be afforded by leaseholders.”

Another leaseholder Dave Shorthouse, who rents out his Monmouth House flat, said tenants will face further bills for other works, including windows, which will be challenged by the leaseholder accordingly.

The tribunal result comes against a background of law change on the issue elsewhere.

Earlier this year, ‘Florrie’s Law’ was introduced in England, restricting the amount councils and housing bodies can charge leaseholders (to £10,000 and £15,000 in London) for major repair, maintenance, or improvement works when these involve government funding.

Bron Afon has accepted the tribunal’s ruling. Director of property Dave Sharman said Monmouth House leaseholders have now been sent revised individual bills.

“The legal definition of ‘repairs’ and ‘improvements’ has never been clear and there is conflicting case law,” he said.

“Leaseholders in Monmouth House will not have to pay for the external wall insulation work we did to the building.”

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