Maystar Estate Residents Fear Big Renovation Bills

Council wants to charge leaseholders in West Ken over £30,000

Left to right: Christopher Lester, Margaret Kardacz, no name, Monica Melia
Left to right: Christopher Lester, Margaret Kardacz, no name, Monica Melia

Residents on a West Kensington estate are facing bills of up to £31,000 for renovations on their homes and are fearful of how they will find the money.

Single mother and part-time worker Margaret Kardacz is among leaseholders in Alice Gilliatt Court, part of the Maystar Estate, who have been quoted the maximum price.

But the 54-year-old, who earns £9,000 a year, said she has “no idea” how she will ever afford it, and is desperate not to have to sell her two-bed flat.

“It was Covid time when this cold letter came through the door last November and we were shocked,” said Ms Kardacz, originally from Poland.

“It was a tough time and businesses were doing badly and then they sent us this bill. I was just shocked, it felt unreal.

“I earn £9,000 a year working part time at St John’s Church. It will take me over three years just to earn that much money.”

A letter sent to Ms Kardacz by the estate’s owner, Hammersmith and Fulham Council, shows that the authority expects the work on her six-story block to cost £622,389. Works on the whole of Alice Gilliatt, which includes four blocks and 76 flats, could total £5.2 million.

Ms Kardacz’ personal quote is for £30,837. Her block will receive renovations including: concrete repairs; replacement of glass walkway panels; repointing of brickwork and asbestos removal.

The council has also said it will not charge residents for new fire doors across the estate.

But leaseholders have been left gobsmacked by the way the council communicated the unwelcome news.

Three years before their latest estimated bills arrived in November, they had been quoted up to £9,000 each.

All went quiet after a first round of negotiations in 2017/18, and residents were taken aback by the sudden prospect of now paying several times more.

Monica Melia, a resident of 27 years who is retired and lives alone, said: “I was at first charged £8,000 and we [leaseholders in her block] negotiated it down to £5,000. Now I’m being charged £21,000. That’s not as much as some people but how can it have gone up so much in a few years?”

Ms Melia continued, “I have to say I had a miserable Christmas because I couldn’t believe it. It’s the coldness of it, and it came so out of the blue.

“Where do they think people are going to get money for this?”

A council spokesperson said, “The projected estimates have increased because the scope and scale of the works have increased [since 2017]. The previous estimates are therefore not a like-for-like comparison. To ensure that we provide the most competitive price for leaseholders, we have put these repair works out to competitive tender where contractors are robustly assessed on quality and cost.”

Christopher Lester, a resident from another of the four blocks in Alice Gilliatt Court, said he negotiated his estimate down from £27,000 to £21,000. He asked how such a big discrepancy could have occurred.

“It’s like they [council officers] have been given a budget and they’re just going to spend it. It doesn’t line up with being ‘ruthlessly financially efficient’,” he said.

The council spokesperson said, “Leaseholders will only be recharged for any works carried out to their block (as opposed to neighbouring buildings). Homeowners will also need to contribute towards wider estate works. We will ensure that any service charges are both relevant and reasonable.”

On the concerns about how residents, such as Ms Kardacz, will afford their bills, the council said it offers a “wide range” of repayment plans, including the option of repaying over “up to 10 years with interest at a reduced level”.

The council also said it is speaking to leaseholders about “external help” such as government Support for Mortgage Interest loans that can reduce interest payable on a debt.

“We also have a degree of discretion around the interest-free period and are pains to reassure homeowners that we will seek to find a solution that works for everyone,” the council spokesperson said.

Owen Sheppard - Local Democracy Reporter

June 9, 2021