A website & blog for residents (and neighbours) of Dalston Square

Meeting Reports

The DSRA had 2 big meetings last week and I have reports from each to share with you.

Firstly, our Buildings & Maintenance sub-committee had their regular inspection tour and meeting with Consort and Barratt. In brief, progress continues in many areas including news that the replacement canopy for Blues Street will be fitted soon. We also again received a commitment from Barratt that the matters of flooding beneath phase 3 and cooking smells in phase 1 will not be put to bed until permanent solutions have been found. With regard the cooking smells issue, the local council are to be approached by Consort to confirm that all building regs with regard air extraction are being met. Ben Collins’ full meeting report can be downloaded and viewed, as always, from the DSRA-specific section of our forum HERE. The only other thing to mention is the subject of the lifts problem in Thomas Tower. For at least the past year residents of Thomas/Burke have had continual lift outages. OTIS, the suppliers/maintainers of these lifts are now claiming that some very expensive belts need replacing at a cost (because warranties have now expired) of over £9000.00! Consort, armed with resident testimony, are arguing that this issue has been ongoing since before the warranties expired and should therefore be rectified free of charge (the belts in discussion should last for 10 years or more and so should not need replacement after just 2 years). Hopefully OTIS will come around and get this sorted out sooner rather than later.

The other meeting was the latest in a long line of meetings between Consort and our Finance group. This report, from Jane Collins, I will share with you right here (a copy will also be stored in the Document Depository over at the forum):

We have been in discussion with Consort over recent weeks regarding the 2014/15 Service Charge estimates.

Our concerns regarding the proposed 2014/15 Service Charge estimates have been:
• Previous estimates for major items had variations between buildings and phases that could not be explained
• A proposal to contract out the cleaning appeared to be very expensive
• All phases had variations in increases that suggested that the original estimates were very inaccurate
• Insurance brokerage is provided in-house
• All phases had proposed increases above inflation, with double-digit increases in phases two and three

We now feel that we have had the opportunity to challenge Consort on these points, and we are more confident that the proposed estimates are accurate. The proposal to contract out the cleaning has been withdrawn and a number of other changes have been made resulting in small savings. We have been given evidence allowing us to compare our Service Charges with other similar properties. We now have proposed estimates for Dalston Square across the phases of the development, which suggest that we are all now being charged the correct, roughly similar, amounts in comparison to each other, based on the charge per square foot.

Unfortunately the large increases in Service Charges in phase two and three seem inevitable as phase two and three charges were significantly underestimated in the first place.

The evidence of past inefficient management of our finances by Consort, particularly the failure to set a realistically increased budget last year, will make this a very difficult year. We have seen evidence that financial management has improved recently but we believe, and asked, that there should be no increase to our service charge this year.

Ground rent demands have been sent and we have been told the new Service Charge demands will be sent in the next few weeks.

When you receive your Service Charge, we urge you to make your concerns known to Consort. Individual personal responses have the greatest impact, and please use the Forum to share these concerns.

One thing I wish to reiterate is that, although phases 2 and 3 will see potentially large increases in their service charge bills when they are sent out in the next couple of weeks (phase 3 will see the largest increases), these charges are correct for a development like ours, with our amenities, in London (around £2.50 per square foot of apartment space). Yes, there have been problems with the way Consort was apportioning costs (mostly now sorted), but the biggest problem has been the way Barratt, and by extension Consort as their agents, have been underestimating and under-billing service charges for the first couple of years of each phases life. Accusations have been made (although denied) that this was a ploy to make selling the brand new flats easier. How can it be that phase 3 was so drastically underestimated when the cost of running the 4/5 year old phase 1 was already known, unless it was done deliberately?

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5 responses

  1. Terry Mead

    Hi Ben
    It’s Terry Mead from Dunbar Tower.
    why is it that nothing is ever mentioned in respect to Dunbar Tower, there are people who live here that are members of Dalston Square Residents Association, and in this building we also have had lots of problems with the lifts. On one occassion from the Christmas period, we had one lift not working at all for over a month. When Sean was asked about it, we were told that the price to carry out the repairs were to expensive and they were trying to find a cheaper company to do the repairs, and then we have our management fee’s increased by almost double. We are constintly having strangers getting into the building and trying sleep in the stair wells. The lifts have been tagged with gang loggo’s. The security doors, both the front door and the doors to the waste area’s do not close and are not secure.
    I find it amazing that we are never include in any talk of problems involving the buildings.

    regards

    Terry Mead

    Sunday, 9 March, 2014 at 5:35 pm

    • Hi Terry, Mark here: Ben is the Chair of the DSRA, but the website and forum were created by, and are run and maintained by, little old me. I am able to do what I do because those that do the actual ‘Doing’ copy me in on their email communications to keep me abreast of what is going on (especially Ben as he is aware of most everything that is going on in the name of the DSRA, which he needs to know as Chair of course, and much else besides that he thinks will be of interest to other residents). This is added to the material I accumulate through my own sources and contacts and when I have enough material, or news that I think needs to get out sooner rather than later, I go ahead and make a post either here on the website or over at the forum if it is not specifically DSRA or Dalston Square related.

      It is this process that leads me to think I know the answer to your opening question. The reason Dunbar does not get mentioned (and it is not the only block) is because no-one from Dunbar has told us of the problems (and certainly Consort will not tell us about problems themselves). I also wonder how many people have reported the problems to Consort, and how often. One thing I have learned about both Consort and Barratt is that 10 people complaining about something will get much better results, a lot faster, than one person reporting the same thing 100 times. Complain, Terry, and get all your neighbours to complain. Start by reporting any given issue asap to the concierge, and ask them to write it in the log so that Development Manager Gerald Bernard (Sean Stone’s replacement) sees it. And if after a week nothing has been done, write an email. Address it to Gerald, gerald.bernard@consortpm.co.uk, and cc it to Ben, DSRA Chair, Lydia, DSRA Buildings Sub-committee Chair (if you do not have their email addresses contact me via the website address of DalstonSquareRA@gmail.com for them), as well as DalstonSquareRA@gmail.com, and customerservices@consortpm.co.uk, and ask what action has been taken and when can you expect resolution of the issue. And keep emailing, Your neighbours too. And try a phone call to Gerald on 02072490896 (bear in mind he is still new to the job so still settling in) or Consort Head Office Customer Services on 08451947044 (top tip! Always compose an email asap after a phone conversation to confirm all the details of the call, in print, while they are still fresh in everyone’s minds, and to inform interested parties, by way of ‘cc’, of what what discussed). A pain for you I know, but a much bigger pain for Consort when lots do it. They will soon get problems put right or give you a good enough reason why not, just to get you off their backs for a while. That’s how the RA does it. 😉

      When do you have time to meet with me Terry? I can pop round most any time day or evening: Let’s have a chat about your concerns and see if we can’t make a plan. Contact me at DalstonSquareRA@gmail.com.

      p.s. For future reference, all these email addresses and phone numbers (along with a couple of others) can be found in the column on the right hand side of the homepage of this website: I added them just a few weeks ago. ;o)

      Sunday, 9 March, 2014 at 7:05 pm

    • Ben Collins

      Hi Terry.
      i must say that what you say is concerning. These repairs should be done.

      The DSRA can only to help if it knows you have a problem. We do not have any representatives from Dunbar at any of our meetings with Consort and Barratts so we are not told about your worries. Someone from the building welcome to join us if you can give me a name. It will mean attending a meeting during the day time about once every two months or so.

      A Representatives from Circle does join us when we meet with Consort and Barratts. These Circle people rarely say much about any problems in Dunbar that I have heard so you need to chase up Circle for not reporting your concerns.

      Can you tell me who you Circle manager is?

      Ben

      Monday, 10 March, 2014 at 9:54 am

  2. Stefano

    I spoke to some residents at Raddon Tower and they told me that the same thing happened to them when they bought: the initial service charge was low and after one year they started increasing it a lot. How is it possible to believe that it is not a selling strategy?

    Sunday, 9 March, 2014 at 10:50 pm

  3. Pingback: Fob Recall, Service Charge Bills, And Dalston Futures Meeting | Dalston Square Residents' Association

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