Major works - frequently asked questions for Leaseholders

Question: Why do I have to have this work carried out?
Answer: The Government has set a standard called the Decent Homes Standard and requires all Councils to bring their property up to that minimum standard by 2010.

Question: But I own my home so why are you doing the work?
Answer: You have bought your home on a leasehold basis which is very different from owning the freehold of a house. Newcastle City Council still owns the building in which you live and you have bought the right to live in that building for a specified number of years.

Question: Why can’t I do the work myself?
Answer: In some cases where the work is non-structural, you can carry out the work yourself however you must apply for Landlord's Permission from Newcastle City Council. Where the work affects the structure, your lease states that Newcastle City Council or its representatives must repair maintain and re-instate where necessary the structure and exterior of your building.

Question: Can I opt out of the work?
Answer: Wherever possible we will allow you to opt of out work (e.g. in a low rise property you may be able to opt out of windows and doors). Some work is not optional as we need to ensure that we maintain the structural integrity of the building.

Question: I can get the work done cheaper myself...
Answer: You are not allowed to use your own contractors to do the work as you would be in breach of your lease.

Question: Why are the costs higher than my local builder?
Answer: Your Homes Newcastle has to appoint reputable contractors using a competitive tendering process on the basis of best value (i.e. quality as well as cost). To enable us to deliver the Government's Decent Homes initiative YHN appointed established contractors that are capably of carrying out large scale refurbishment and repair works and who will meet all health and safety requirements and provide long term guarantees for the quality of their work. This inevitably involves slightly higher costs in the short term but is likely to be better value in the long term.

Question: Why do I have to pay and the tenants don’t?
Answer: The cost of maintaining the building is intended to be included in the rent paid by tenants. You have bought the lease of your property which states that you have to pay for external work. You have a financial interest in the property whereas tenants don’t and you can sell your home at any time at open market value.

Question: You have got a grant from the Government to do this work so why charge me?
Answer: The Decent Homes grant that we have received only covers our tenanted properties and cannot be used to pay for leaseholders work.

Question: What do I pay buildings insurance for if I am then going to have to pay for this work?
Answer: Your buildings insurance on your annual service charge only covers risks such as storm damage, fire, flood etc. and does not cover major work required because of general wear and tear of the building.

Question: Who has surveyed my property?
Answer: We have appointed an independent surveyor to do surveys for Decent Homes work to leasehold properties.

Question: Surely you need my permission to survey my property...
Answer: We will fully consult with you prior to the start of any work, however, as Newcastle City Council own the building in which you live we have the right under the terms of the lease to access the property for surveys or work that we feel is necessary provided we give reasonable notice.

Question: I wasn’t told about this work when I bought my flat...
Answer: The terms of your lease which you signed up to when you bought your flat state that service charges would be payable for these types of work. If the legal advice which you received before you bought your home was not adequate you may wish to discuss this with your citizens' advice bureau and you may wish to take independent legal advice on the terms of your lease.

Question: I cannot afford to pay for this work...
Answer: There will be a number of payment options available; however you should always seek your own independent financial advice.

Question: This work wouldn’t have been required if you had maintained my property properly over the years...
Answer: The fabric of any building will deteriorate over time, even if it has been well maintained. The Council have always tried to adequately maintain the exterior of its properties; however the Government has now set certain property standards that public sector housing now has to reach. The condition of property purchased under the Right to Buy will have been taken into account when it was valued and reflected in the sale price.