Items With the Flat
In a number of cases, vendors of flats have not left all of the items that belong with the flat. We suggest, therefore, that you ensure that your vendor has left you:
Services and Maintenance
Responsibility for services is as follows:
Your electricity meters and, in most cases, a main water stopcock are in the service shaft or conduit outside the door to your flat. Service cupboard keys were distributed to every flat but these must be kept locked closed for fire safety. There is another main water stopcock just below the ceiling in flats with the cold water tank in the airing cupboard. The water supplier stopcock is under a cover just outside the block, with the water meter, if fitted.
Residents in flats with bathrooms having humidity control fans rather than windows should clean them regularly, otherwise the fans will lose effectiveness, become noisy and may fail.
Replacement cooker hood filters, Acorn type 258F033, could be obtained from Galley Matrix, 1 Bricknall Park, Ashley Road, St Albans, Hertfordshire (telephone 01727 44466) in 1992. We have not checked if this is still the case.
Economy 7 Electricity, Storage Heater and Immersion Heater
When built, flats were provided with a Storad storage heater in the living rooms and an immersion heater in the airing cupboard in the bathroom, both connected to the overnight Economy 7 electricity supply. You need to use the controls correctly to take maximum advantage of the cheaper priced electricity supplied for seven hours overnight (the exact time varies and is controlled by an electricity company clock but is generally around 00:30 to 07:30 GMT).
The storage heater has two parts: a storage heater and a convector heater. You should turn on the storage heater the day before heating is required and leave it on during the winter months, so that it will heat up overnight (controlled by the Economy 7 clock and using the cheaper electricity) and release the heat the following day. The Storad storage heater has three heat settings controlled by two switches (the right hand controls). It is best to adjust this so that the room is warm enough but, if you require additional heat, turn on the convector at the time (using the left hand controls) to top up the stored heat and adjust the rotary thermostat (this uses higher priced electricity except during the night).
There is a document of technical information (PDF scan, 292kb) for the Storad SRC 333 storage heater.
The immersion heater has two elements: one on Economy 7 and the other on the normal supply. The Economy 7 element should be the lower one so that it heats up the whole tank of water and the normal element the top one for topping up the hot water. Unfortunately, some were wired the wrong way round when built so, if you suspect that yours is not correct, you should consult a qualified electrician to check. You would normally leave the Economy 7 element turned on, so that the tank of water heats up overnight (controlled by the Economy 7 clock and using the cheaper electricity). If you need more hot water, turn on the normal element at the wall switch for a short time to top up the hot water (this uses higher priced electricity except during the night). If you regularly do not have enough hot water or the water temperature is too low or too high, you should consult a qualified electrician or plumber to adjust the thermostats, which are part of the heating elements.
The switchover to digital television in London took place in April 2012 and analogue television has been discontinued. The aerial systems in blocks of flats receive digital signals, for which you need suitable equipment like a digital TV or set top box. See the Digital UK website for more information. In 2018 and 2019, changes were made to Freeview television transmitters that affect reception on the Estate. Some flats blocks are unable to receive some additional high definition and other channels. Repeated attempts have been made to find a contractor willing to investigate this issue, but none has yet been found.
Flat owners and residents may not erect satellite dishes under the lease. If you wish to receive satellite television, you can do so from the communal service. See Satellite Television.
The Directors started a trial of LED lamps in fittings on the walls and ceilings of flat communal areas in June 2012. These proved bright enough, last longer so reducing maintenance and use around half the electricity of fluorescent lamps, so are better for the environment and reduce costs. When these LED lamps became available at economic cost, more were fitted in autumn 2013. A further supply became available at a good price in late 2016, although these required fittings to be re-wired, so these were obtained and the fittings were re-wired. Although they cost more initially, they will pay for themselves several times over during their expected life of more than 10 years through reduced electricity and maintenance costs.
A trial of LED strip lamps outside flat doors was not successful, since they were prone to failure, later ones did not work in our fittings and the electricity saving would not be enough for it to be cost effective to replace all the fittings. These lamps are therefore being left as low power fluorescent ones for now.
About half of the Estate electricity is used by street and security lights. In 2019, suitable LED street and security lights became available that provided similar or more light as sodium lights that were already relatively efficient. Wandsworth Council replaced its street lights with LED ones. Estate street lights have also been replaced with similar LED ones and Estate security lights are being replaced with fewer LED ones in three phases, while improving lighting in areas where loitering occurs. This is further reducing electricity used, costs and maintenance.
Safety, Security, Fire and Warnings
To maintain security for the benefit of all residents in your block, please leave windows and skylights in the common hallways locked closed and do not let strangers into blocks of flats. There have been a number of burglaries on the Estate, particularly in ground floor flats. For this reason, some owners have chosen to install security grilles inside windows in such properties.
The Flat Fire Emergency Plan is also available as a download (PDF, 51kb). This was originally produced by Health & Safety consultants in October 2008 following a risk assessment. It was updated in July 2017 following the Grenfell fire tragedy and was further updated in October 2018 after a Fire Brigade inspection. The plan advises what to do in the event of a fire and advises residents to fit a working smoke alarm and test it regularly. For more advice, see the fire brigade website.
Government guidance published in January 2020 suggests that those responsible for buildings should carry out certain actions for fire safety which, for St Benedicts, are to understand the building construction and fire properties. The Directors followed the applicable Government guidance and concluded that no further action is required. The construction of flat blocks is brick and block with tiled roofs and concrete floor separators. These materials are non-combustible. There is no cladding nor cavity wall insulation, so the question of possible combustibility or fire spread of cladding or insulation does not arise. The guidelines and evidence to achieve the understanding required is set out in detail in a formal document (PDF, 396kb). This covers leasehold flat blocks on the St Benedicts Estate, not the flat block owned freehold by Wandle Housing Association (although its construction is the same as other flat blocks on the Estate), nor freehold houses, which are the responsibility of their freehold owners.
In January 2010, a warning (PDF scan, 24kb) was issued that a resident had reported a problem with their electrical fuse box. Owners are recommended to have their fuse boxes and electrical installations inspected and tested regularly by a qualified electrician. When the Estate was originally built, Laing Homes' electrical subcontractors carried out the electrical installations poorly. Laing Homes subsequently offered all properties an electrical inspection and test, then remedial work where necessary around 1991. Most owners accepted but 19 did not have this work carried out. Owners who purchased their properties subsequently are strongly advised either to check with the Managing Agent, which holds the list, that their property was inspected, tested and rectified or to have a full electrical inspection and test carried out.
A number of water leaks have occurred from plastic waste pipes in bathrooms, mostly those from wash basins. When the Estate was built, Laing Homes did not cement some joints and these can pull apart, particularly if disturbed to clear the pipe or u-bend, or can leak gradually. You are advised to ensure that the pipe joints are fully pushed together and cemented securely with suitable plastic solvent weld cement to make a waterproof joint. See the DIY Doctor guide.
The Management Company's insurance covers damage by common perils to the buildings of blocks of leasehold flats (and also damage to Estate facilities and public liability). It does not cover contents, which are the responsibility of residents to insure. Nor does it cover damage resulting from failure to maintain the flat. If you become aware of any event that might give rise to a claim under the policy or if you wish to make a claim, you must contact the Managing Agent as soon as possible. The Managing Agent will provide a claim form for you to complete and return. No work may be carried out until the insurer or its loss assessor has given permission. The flat owner will need to pay the costs of any unapproved work, and for repairs to their own flat, the fabric of the building and other flats arising from failure to maintain the property or, in some circumstances, from deliberate damage. Flat owners, particularly those sub-letting to tenants, are strongly advised to take out their own insurance to cover other liabilities for which they are responsible.
The Estate flat blocks and facilities are valued every five years, last in 2019. Here is the reinstatement cost valuation (PDF, 422kb).
Here are the current buildings insurance certificate (PDF, 14kb), buildings insurance policy (PDF, 1925kb - please only download this large document if you need it), terrorism insurance certificate (PDF, 19kb) and terorism insurance policy (PDF, 843kb - please only download this large document if you need it).
The Estate insurance claim history for flats water leaks has continued to get worse, resulting in reduced cover with higher premiums and excesses. Owners confirmed at the 2018 AGM that water leaks would require a plumbing inspection and report. This failed to improve the situation and we now have evidence that some unscrupulous plumbers are prepared to certify inadequate work for those paying them. Faced with premiums more than doubling in 2020 causing flats service charges to rise by an average of 26%, the policy on water leaks was tightened further to protect the interests of the large majority of owners paying increased charges through no fault of their own and those owners and residents suffering inconvenience, damage and distress due to leaks from other flats.
All flat water leaks from from 1 July 2020 will be referred to the Management Company's solicitor immediately to secure compliance by the owner of the leaking flat with the lease terms on maintenance, avoiding impacting insurance, nuisance and access by the Company or its agents. To remedy these breaches of their lease, the owner will be required to allow inspections by the Management Company's contractor (not one they choose) and carry out any work recommended to bring the plumbing installation up to an appropriate standard to reduce the chance of further leaks. Along with the legal fees, this work will all be at their cost. Leaking properties will also have any insurance premium increases attributed to water leaks in the preceding year charged to those properties under the terms of the lease to mitigate the increases for other owners. These owners may consequently also choose to pay for repairs, including to other properties damaged, rather then incur these indeterminate and possibly high additional charges the following year. Finally, the types of flat plumbing alterations that will be granted the consent in advance necessary under the lease have been restricted further to reduce the chance of leaks.