Citizens Advice Bureau

The HOC sponsor 1.5 full-time positions within the Citizens Advice Bureau (CAB) dedicated to resolving a variety of homeowner issues, some of which can be found in the case study section of this website.

The project provides information and advice to Southwark Council leaseholders and freeholders. The project workers support clients in areas such as negotiations to pay service charge debts to the local authority, advocating with the Department for Work and Pensions to pay charges and income maximisation advice including welfare benefits.

A holistic approach is taken to supporting leaseholders to stay in their homes and the help and advice provided also includes debt management plans (including all their debts) employment, relationship, discrimination and disrepair issues as needed. Referrals within the CAB are also made for specialist, family law, debt and welfare benefits advice and energy saving support.

Clients can access the project directly by a dedicated phone number and email address as well as referrals from diverse sources including the Home Ownership Unit and local councilors. Homeowners can contact the service using one of the following ways:

Tel: 020 7237 9532

Email: Lholders@citizensadvicesouthwark.org.uk

Online:

Write to:
Leasehold
Citizens Advice Southwark
8 Market Place
Southwark Park Road
London
SE16 3UQ

CAB Case Studies

Case Study 1

Case Study 1 Client A is a freeholder living in an ex-Council property. Under his Transfer of Part, he is still obliged to pay service charges to Southwark Council because they provide his heating and hot water via a district heating network.
Client A received a large major works bill as the district heating network was being updated. He came to us for two reasons: the first was to find out whether it would be possible to disconnect from the district heating. The second was to find out more about when “renewals” become “improvements”, as Client A was thinking of challenging the major works bill on the basis that “improvements” were not covered by his Transfer.

We looked at Client A’s Transfer of Part with him and helped him identify that it permits him to disconnect from Southwark’s district heating network as long as he covers Southwark’s costs incurred by the disconnection. For Client A, this meant that he also had the option to carry out the disconnection himself, using his own contractors, as long as this was done safely.
We were also able to provide Client A with numerous examples of case law which deal with the differences between “renewals” and “improvements”, and advised that his Transfer allowed for “renewals” but not “improvements”. Based on these cases and our advice, Client A decided he would like to go ahead and challenge the service charges, and instructed a solicitor for help taking this forward.


Case Study 2

Client B is in receipt of Jobseekers Allowance and has been for some years. She fell into arrears with her service charges and did not have the means to pay by herself. Client B approached us for help with her service charges arrears and it quickly became clear that she had not been receiving any help with her housing costs as part of her JSA award, even though this is something she is entitled to receive because she hadn’t sent them any information on her service charge commitments. Client B did not know that service charges could be covered by JSA. We contacted Southwark’s Collections Team on Client B’s behalf and got them to hold off on any further action against our client, to allow enough time for the DWP to process the request. We then got in contact with the DWP by post, sending them copies of Client B’s service charges invoices and account statements. As a result, Client B was awarded £1377.30 to put towards her service charges for that year. We also advised her that she should always send a copy of her new service charges bill to the DWP, to request JSA housing costs money for them, within 30 days of receiving the invoice. Therefore Client B has now gained the knowledge and financial capability skills to stay on top of her service charges in the future.


Case Study 3

Client C is a married LBS leaseholder and carer for her husband who has physical disabilities. In 2014 major works were done on their property. They set up a payment plan for this but wanted to dispute the quality of the works. The works included roof repairs and lead to heavy leaks into Client C’s property. LBS admitted that works needed to be done on the roof and in March 2019 LBS sent Client a section 20 for these works saying they are liable to pay the costs of the roof repairs. Client C came to us for help on how to challenge the roof work costs. We helped Client to draft observations and argued that if the original 2014 roof works had been done properly then the new proposed works would not be required. We argued that it was not fair to expect the client to pay for these works. LBS officers confirmed that this was the case and agreed that the works would be done at no cost to Client C.

Case Study 4

Client D is a retired LBS Leaseholder with physical disabilities. She came to us because her DLA stopped due to the switch over to PIP. She did not want to claim PIP but was struggling to keep up with annual service charges. We did a benefit check and advised her to claim Pensions Credit. We helped her put in a claim and they agreed to backdate her pensions credit claim by 3 months and cover her current service charge bill. Total annualised amount: £12,071.25


Case Study 5

Client E is a Right to Buy Leaseholder who is still within the 5 year initial period. She received a major works bill for £8,112. She came to us for advice as she wanted to know if she was liable to pay. We reviewed her section 125 Notice and we noticed that the service charges were capped at £6000 for the first 5 years. We explained to Client that LBS could not charge her more than £6000 for these works as she was still in the 5-year initial period. Total saving: £2,112

Case Study 6

Case Study 6
Client A is a single leaseholder with two children. Client A had Service Charges arrears of £1435.26. Client A received a Letter of Claim from Southwark Council saying that Client A had 30 days to pay off the arrears in full or respond to the letter, or they would commence court proceedings to recover the arrears.
Client A wanted her mortgage lender to pay off the arrears and add them to her mortgage payments, but when we contacted Southwark Council on Client A’s behalf they said they would need to go through court proceedings before they get the mortgage lender to pay the service charges. Client A was also not permitted to deal with Service Charges account as it was in her partner’s name. Client A’s partner has been living in Africa for the last 9 years. Southwark Council agreed to give Client A more time to respond to the Letter of Claim in order to get authorisation from her partner.
After getting authorisation, we helped Client A complete the Reply Form and the Income & Expenditure Form and reply to the Letter of Claim with a proposed instalment plan. Although the plan was rejected, Southwark Council agreed to send the bill to Client A’s mortgage lender who paid for the arrears. As a result, Client A avoided having a county court judgement against her and avoided the interest and legal fees involved.


Case Study 7

Case Study 7
Client B had £4646.72 mortgage arrears and her mortgage lender had started re-possession proceedings as a result of the arrears. Client B thought she would be able to get the money to pay off the arrears, but was anxious about the prospect of going 9

to court and potentially losing her home. Client B was told by the mortgage lender and its solicitors that they may also need assurance that she could keep up with payments in the future for them to adjourn the hearing, even if she pays off the arrears.
We contacted the mortgage lender’s solicitors on Client B’s behalf on a couple of occasions, while Client B attempted to pay off the arrears. When Client B was able to finally pay off the last of the arrears, the mortgage lenders and their solicitors agreed to adjourn the hearing without any further action required from Client B. Client B has now been made aware of what she needs to do going forward to ensure her mortgage lender does not commence re-possession proceedings again in the future.


Case Study 8

Case Study 8
Client C is a single male pensioner living in a Southwark leasehold property. He is still paying off his mortgage on his property.
Client C approached us because he was being threatened with eviction due to mortgage arrears. A suspended possession order had already been made, and Client C had breached this order by failing to keep up with the monthly repayments the judge had asked him to pay.
As a result, Client C’s mortgage lender wrote to him stating that they were going to apply for a warrant for eviction. Once obtained, the warrant would allow the lender to send bailiffs to the property to evict our client.
During his appointment with us, we called Client C’s mortgage lender to clarify the amount of the breach of the order, which was relatively small. We negotiated with them and they agreed that if he could clear the breach of the suspended possession order, and continue to maintain his mortgage and arrears repayments under the terms of the order going forwards, they would not evict him.
We then assisted Client C in producing a financial statement showing his income and outgoings, to demonstrate that he was able to clear the breach and continue making his agreed payments towards the mortgage and arrears.
As a result, Client C was able to clear the breach of his suspended possession order, and did not lose his home.


Case Study 9

Case Study 9
Client D has inherited her lease from her mother, who passed away when she was 12. Her grandmother and aunt were administrators of her mother’s estate until she turned 18, and her grandmother pays the mortgage. Client D pays £150 per month towards service charges.
Client D came to us because she received a Letter of Claim from Southwark, for arrears of £6349.06 on a major works bill. The letter gave her 30 days to respond before court action would be taken, which would incur interest and court costs on the debt. However, the letter was addressed to her mother.
Client D phoned her collections officer at Southwark to try and arrange a repayment plan. However, Southwark would not discuss the account with her because her mother’s name was still the only name on the account, as they did not receive anything from the Land Registry stating that the leaseholder had changed.
During her appointment with us, we assisted Client D in calling Southwark’s Collections Team. We managed to get their agreement to take no further action, to allow our client time to get a copy of her mother’s death certificate to send to them. We assisted Client D in completing a Financial Statement and the Reply Form that came with the letter, in order to put forward her offer of repayment within the 30-day time limit. We wrote a note on the Reply Form stating that Client D was in the process of obtaining her mother’s death certificate so she could be authorised to deal with the account.
After they received the death certificate, Southwark then agreed to Client D’s repayments of £198 per month for the major works, in line with the Financial Statement we had helped her complete. Client D is therefore no longer under threat of legal action or the associated costs.

Case Study 10

Case Study 10
Client E is a retired leaseholder of a converted LBS house. She originally came to us because LBS was taking her to court for non-payment of her estimated service charge bill of £5000. She wanted to dispute costs on grounds that the costs were unreasonable and the works were done to an unreasonable standard. An independent surveyors report thought the works were not worth more than £2400.
We helped Client E to draft her defence and submit it to the county court. Sometime after, the poor works caused rain water to enter through the exterior wall and ceiling, causing damage to her property. We helped her to put in a late counterclaim for the money she would have to pay towards the costs of redecorating the room and replacing her curtains. We were due to have the hearing later this year but upon reviewing the evidence LBS instead offered to settle the counterclaim, offering her £5000 which would clear her service charges. We also asked them to pay the court fees she had to pay to file the late counterclaim and they agreed.
Outcomes:
Client E did not have to attend court hearing. She was in poor health at the time she was feeling very anxious about the hearing.
She had hoped not to pay more than £2400 towards the service charge bill. She actually did not have to pay anything towards the bill.
Total financial outcome: £5710