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Periodic Work 2020-22

After the tenders for the full external work originally planned could not be carried out in 2020 because of the pandemic and successive tenders for the work in bulk to large building firms requlted in excessive and unaffordable quotes, the periodic work has been split into smaller work packages. While this will require much more Director involvement, limiting other work, it will mean that work can be carried out separately by smaller and local contractors at the most economic cost and save the 10% surveyor contract administration fee. Information on each package is provided below:

Flats external repair and re-decoration options

After the tenders for the full external work originally planned could not be carried out in 2020 because of the pandemic for the reasons described below and the tenders for reduced high-level flats external re-decoration were exorbitant and completely unaffordable, also described below, the Directors considered what options are available. These are being presented to the 2021 Annual Meeting for property owner shareholder discussion and agreement. The broad approach is to split work into much smaller work packages that can be carried out separately by smaller local contractors at the most economic cost. The Directors and Rendall and Rittner will tender these, saving the 10% surveyor contract administration fee. They are likely to be below the threshold requiring Section 20 consultation with flat owners by law, so property owners will be kept informed through this website and Newsletters.

Before the 2021 AGM, some further urgent work was required, was tendered and was carried out to flats gutters and roofs. This is described below. Because of the poor contractor response, it was decided to defer the tender and work to re-decorate the flat block oriels (projecting features) until 2022, when it is hoped contractors will be less busy and prices less inflated.

Alternative options for re-decoratiing wooden flat windows will be discussed with local painting contractors to find the most economical. These may include painting ground and, if safely possible, first floor windows from ground level using low platforms with ladder access. The costs should be at the much lower level for ground level flats porch work in 2021. Second, third and possibly first floor windows would need access using a hoist, scaffold tower or fixed scaffold to paint from the outside. Local painting contractors will be asked if this can be provided at economic cost related to the hire cost, rather than the excessive costs from large building firms to provide access for far longer than actually needed with huge markup. Another option that may be possible is to paint the windows from inside the flats, since the original wooden windows slide and allow access to both sides for cleaning, which would avoid external access costs. Before window work can be tendered it will be necessary to carry out a consultation for owners and residents to identify exactly where there are still wooden windows, which will be carried out after the AGM in late autumn 2021, so the work can then be tendered to be carried out in spring or summer 2022. Because many windows were replaced before the current Directors and Managing Agent, we believe that contractors are over-estimating the number quoted for, leading to inflated costs.

When wooden window are re-decorated, flat owners and residents will be given two weeks' notice and must open windows on the date advised by the contractors concerned. Landlords must ensure their tenants and any letting agent provide the necesary access, which is a requirement of the lease. It will not be possible to offer a choice of dates, nor re-visits by the contractor to keep costs to a reasonable level. Any wooden windows that are not open if painted from the outside or where access is not granted to paint from the inside would either be painted closed, leaving the edges and rebates unpainted and potentially making it more difficult to open the windows, or left unpainted. Any cost of rectifying this would be for the flat owners concerned to pay and could be considerable if access is required at height.

Flats internal re-decoration deferred

Internal flat communal area re-decoration could not go ahead in 2020 for several reasons. The unexpectedly high tendered costs of the external work in 2020 used flats reserves collected for both external and internal work and some contingency reserves, so more reserves have to be collected once the costs of external work are known. All work was delayed by the Covid-19 pandemic and consequent restrictions. Internal work in particular could not go ahead because social distancing could not be maintained from residents on stairs and in hallways during the work.

When it is safely possible, priority flat block communal area work will go ahead. The timing is not yet certain, although it is hoped this will be in the winter of 2021-22. This will cover:

  • Limited re-decoration just of areas in poor condition, for example, where paint is peeling or stained following a water leak.
  • Work now recommended by the health & safety inspections to bring fire barriers up to higher standards following the Grenfell tragedy, including sealing gaps around service conduits with solid materials rather then fireproof foam as was recommended several years ago and ensuring proper seals between fire door frames and walls.
  • As discussed at the 2020 AGM (PDF, 74kb), the landlord electrical system will be upgraded in a pilot block from what was fitted in the 1980s to modern standards and tests will be carried out to see if it is possible to use light fittings that switch on when people are nearby instead of being on throughout the hours of darkness. This would lower electricity use and costs and, if successful, will establish if it would be beneficial to bring this work forward in other blocks from the mid 2020s when originally planned. If this would save money, flat owners would be offered the opportunity to carry out this work around 2022-23 instead of internal re-decoration. The pilot is planned in 1-11 St Benedicts Close, which has external lighting and where a Director can monitor the test.

The surveyor advised that flats internal communal area re-decoration could be done at seven yearly intervals and owners agreed to make this the default at the 2020 AGM (PDF, 74kb) and also agreed that the next full internal re-decoration could be deferred to spread costs. This will allow flexibility around external work and electrical work to be brought forward if that would be beneficial.

Flats gutter and roof work 2021 completed

After the full external work originally planned could not be carried out in either 2020 or 2021 because of the pandemic and for the reasons described below for 2020 and 2021, the work was split to be more economical.

A major roof leak occurred at 73-103 St Benedicts Close allowing significant water entry, which could not wait for the main work to be tendered. A tender was carried out for this investigation specifically which was won by Snowik at a cost of £4,429 + VAT. This required a Section 20 consultaton with owners in that block by law, which was carried out. The work required scaffolding and the cost of £4,050 + VAT that Snowik quoted to repair the roof while this was in place was reasonable and less than another contractor having to scaffold the building again, so Snowik was also awarded the work to repair multiple faults. Costs of investigation in the consultation and an amount just below the Section 20 threshold were charged to the block reserve, with the small balance covered by the contingency reserve to avoid further delay as repair was urgent. Work was completed in June 2021.

The Directors and Rendall and Rittner carried out two tenders for flats gutter work, as many were leaking and overflowing, and further roof work to carry out repairs that the surveyor Hallas & Co advised are important, investigate dampness at roof level at 13-27 and 29-43 and fix a loose soffit which may allow pest entry at 1-11 St Benedicts Close. The option of doing both together was offered if this would be more economical. Contractor response was very poor with some not tendering because of the large amount of work following the end of pandemic restrictions.

A local contractor that we use, CSCS, quoted for both, offered the lowest price for roof work and a reduced price if work were combined so the same access could be used. The costs quoted are within those considered resonable based on past work, not currently inflated prices. The Directors therefore ordered these two sets of work at the reduced combined quote of £18,490 + VAT, which is below the level at which section 20 consultation is required spread across all blocks. CSCS carried out the work work from 6-27 September 2021 using a large hoist. Some residents were asked to clear parking spaces and park in other bays, permitted for the duration of the work. This was funded from flat reserves that only leasehold flat owners contribute to. While on site with the hoist, CSCS was also asked to investigate and repair a communal area roof leak at 21-26 Abbey Drive reported subsequently and several other small roof repairs identified while working nearby with the hoist as this was far more economical than ordering them separately incurring additional access costs.

Flats porch re-decoration 2021 completed

After the full external work originally planned could not be carried out in 2020 because of the pandemic for the reasons described below, the work was split to be more economical, so costs of having a large building firm on site and access were not incurred for work at ground level.

The Directors and Rendall and Rittner carried out a tender for the flat porch redecoration, for which three tenders were submitted. Rafal Wiatek, the Estate handyman contractor, submitted the lowest tender at under £8,000 (incurring no VAT) plus materials, which will be under £1,000. The cost is at a very much lower level than work by major contractors and well below the level requiring Section 20 consultation, so this was ordered. Work was carried out in July and August 2021 and is now complete. Both the outside and inside of porches were redecorated. Broken mailboxes will be repaired with the cost recharged to the owner. Costs were paid from flat reserves that only leasehold flat owners contribute to.

Flats external re-decoration tenders 2021 unaffordable

After the full external work originally planned could not be carried out in 2020 because of the pandemic for the reasons described below, Hallas & Co carried out a tender for a reduced amount of work just covering flats high level re-decoration of the oriels (projecting features), windows, eaves and, while working at that level, maintaining the gutters and some minor repair work. It invited four building contractors to tender with preliminary information (177kb) and a cost submission (Excel spreadsheet, 128kb) setting out the work agreed with the Directors. These documents require a username and password that owners can obtain on request from the Managing Agent. The first part of the Section 20 consultation was carried out with flat owners and received no responses relevant to the work. The second part was not needed as the combined work is not proceeding.

Unfortunately, the three tenders received were exorbitant, ranging from about £226,000 to £423,000. These compare to the lowest quote last year of about £209,000 for signinicantly more work and costs for both full flats external and internal redecoration under £100,000 in 2010 and 2015, on which the funds collected in were based, then increased last year to about £150,000 following the greatly increased tendered costs. Along with the hugely increased insurance costs, this contributed to the flats charge increase last year averaging 26%. To pay the costs quoted this year, following Covid-19 pandemic lockdowns with contractors seeking to recover lost profits and take advantage of a glut of work that had been deferred, would need flats charges to increase by a further 25%-60% this year, which is completely unacceptable!

The Directors have therefore declined these quotes and are considering what options are available, considered above, which will be presented to the 2021 Annual Meeting for property owner shareholder discussion and agreement. The second part of the Section 20 consultation with flat owners is not required. The surveyor advised that external re-decoration could be done at five yearly intervals and owners agreed to make this the default at the 2020 AGM (PDF, 74kb).

Priority external repairs in 2020 completed

The full external work originally planned could not be carried out in 2020 because of the pandemic. The Directors considered the situation very carefully based on Government and industry guidance as restrictions were eased and concluded the work must be deferred for reasons explained below. Instead, a much reduced amount of essential and important external work that could be carried out safely in the time available was ordered. The Directors discussed options and proposals for external work and internal work with owners at the 2020 AGM (PDF, 74kb).

Surveyor Hallas & Co carried out a revised tender for the reduced priority work in June 2020. Contractors with highest costs in the original tender were omitted and two more local contractors were invited to participate. A much reduced specification (PDF, 179kb) and cost submission (Excel spreadsheet, 203kb) agreed with the Directors were used and two tenders were received. Many firms had not fully started work again after the pandemic lockdown and others were very busy. Hallas & Co assessed these tenders in a brief email report (PDF, 75kb). Alfred Bagnall & Sons won the tender. These documents require a username and password given in the section 20 consultations that owners can also obtain on request from the Managing Agent.

This reduced work was covered by the Section 20 consultation carried out for the full work, so it was not necessary to repeat the consultation. The Directors ordered this work, which Alfred Bagnall & Sons carried out from late September to November 2020. Bagnalls provided had a suitable method statement taking account of coronavirus Covid-19 for health and safety. Bagnalls staff entered buildings to investigate roof leaks and repair glass but not for most other work. In summary, the reduced priority external work covered:

  • Wall repairs to flat blocks recommended by the structural engineer, except those covered by the insurance claim.
  • Roof repairs necessary to flat block 1-71 St Benedicts Close.
  • Soffit repairs and fitting metal vents at 21-26 and 31-36 Abbey Drive to deter pest entry.
  • Wood repairs to flat blocks where required, for example, porch supports and oriels (projecting bays).
  • Tile, mortar, flashing and gutter repairs to avoid water damage.
  • Replacing cracked safety glass.
  • Other repairs with similar materials that could be carried out economically at the same time, such as minor concrete repairs.
  • Significant repairs to the clock tower where the wood was rotting followed by painting to protect it from further deterioration.

Work to flat blocks is funded from flats reserves, to which only leasehold flat owners contribute. House owners do not pay towards this work. Estate work, such as to the clock tower, is funded from Estate reserves, to which both flat owners and house owners contribute. No work is paid for only by house owners.

Flats external work in 2020 cancelled

Periodic repair and redecoration was due in 2020 after property owners decided at the 2014 AGM (PDF, 33kb) to delay this redecoration from 2019 to reduce service charges slightly. Now the properties are over 30 years old, more maintenance is required including to leaking roofs. Repairs around corbels from the 2015 periodic redecoration were still intact when inspected, so the final part of the retention from 2015 was paid to Polyteck.

Surveyor Hallas & Co was appointed to supervise periodic external repair and redecoration as in previous cycles, since it is familiar with the Estate and particularly with the situation of the flat walls, with fee terms as previously. It invited five building contractors to tender using a specification (large PDF, 13.3Mb) and cost submission (Excel spreadsheet, 194kb) agreed with the Directors and received four tenders (available for inspection by appointment). Hallas & Co assessed the tenders in a tender report (PDF, 372kb). Alfred Bagnall & Sons won the tender. These documents require a username and password given in the section 20 consultations that owners can also obtain on request from the Managing Agent.

Unfortunately, initial tenders were about three times the cost of similar work in 2010 and 2015 allowing for inflation, with general costs including staff welfare and scaffold and hoist costs for access greatly increased. This is thought to result from the Government Living Wage, more stringent health & safety standards and market conditions. The Directors met the supervising surveyor and lowest tenderer to clarify the work and managed to reduce costs including contingency, fees and VAT by about £36,000 for a start in April 2020, although this ceased to be possible because of the pandemic. All suitable contractors known to the managing agent and surveyor were asked to quote, including the one that did the work last time at lower cost, so there were no options to carry out the work more cheaply.

The section 20 consultations with flat owners required by law were carried out for the proposed work. The section 20 part 1 notice (PDF, 170kb) was issued on 25 October 2019 with a deadline for response by 25 November 2019. One response was received, which did not affect the tender. The section 20 part 2 notice (PDF, 196kb) was issued on 4 March 2020 with a deadline for response by 6 April 2020. The outcome was delayed because Rendall and Rittner's offices were closed because of the pandemic. Once mail was redirected, it was confirmed in late April 2020 that there were no responses. These documents also require a username and password (see above).

It was planned to carry out full external work starting in April 2020 but this work had to be cancelled because of the pandemic. The contractor that provided the lowest tender quite properly suspended all but emergency work during the first lock-down in line with Government restrictions. As pandemic restrictions started to be eased, the Directors reviewed the situation very carefully and decided that this work could not proceed. Instead, a reduced amount of essential and important external work was carried out in 2020, mainly repairs to prevent further deterioration. The reasons this was necessary are:

  • Decoration of open windows was not safely possible for vulnerable people shielding and those required to self-isolate.
  • The high cost requiring all maintenance reserves and a large part of contingency reserves would breach residential management industry best practice guidance during the pandemic.
  • Work could no longer be carried out as planned during summer weather and would extend into late autumn or winter, placing the quality of decoration at risk.

Flats wall inspection 2019 completed

Following previous thermal cracking and flat wall repairs, it was recommended that the flat block walls are inspected every five years for cracking or other issues. This is done in the latter half of the year before flats external repair and re-decoration is due, so was carried out in September 2019 when external work was planned in 2020, later postponed because of the pandemic.

The Directors commissioned the flat walls inspection in September 2019 from Ellis & Moore, which carried out previous structural surveys and specified previous wall repairs. The results were presented to the 2019 AGM (PDF, 55kb) and the structural report (large PDF, 14.2Mb) is available with a username and password that owners can obtain on request from the Managing Agent. There were no issues with previous repairs and minor wall cracks thought to result from thermal expansion will be repaired in the periodic repair as before. More serious issues requiring monitoring and repair were discovered with two flat blocks, see below.

Flats

Flat Block Repairs 2020

Owners of flats in the two blocks concerned, to whom the Managing Agent has written twice, can download documents referred to with a username and password given in the letters and available on request from the Managing Agent.

Following previous flat wall repairs, flat walls are inspected periodically as recommended then. The flats walls inspection was commissioned from Ellis & Moore in September 2019, which carried out previous structural surveys and specified previous wall repairs. The results from the structural report (large PDF, 14.2Mb) were presented to the 2019 AGM (PDF, 55kb). There were no issues with previous repairs and minor wall cracks thought to result from thermal expansion will be repaired in the periodic repair as before. More serious issues requiring monitoring and repair were discovered with two flat blocks, 21-26 Abbey Drive and 31-45 Church Lane.

On advice from the structural engineer, the cost of remedial work for these more serious issues has been claimed on the Estate insurance. Together with the very poor record of water leaks, this caused a huge increase in all insurance premiums on the Estate, which more than doubled. The insurer appointed a loss adjuster which has, in turn, appointed other firms to investigate the causes and recommend what repairs and other action are required. The insurer is not using the Estate contractors, so they are not able to get involved in this work. The loss adjuster accepted the claims for movement and related sewer damage likley to have been caused by the movement. The relevant loss adjuster letters are available for download by the owners of 21-26 Abbey Drive (PDF, 56kb) and 31-45 Church Lane (PDF, 50kb). The estimated timescale for work originally provided by the loss adjuster and progress is set out below. Work was delayed because of the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • Investigation report for 21-26 Abbey Drive: Feb 2020 received
  • Sewer repairs at 21-26 Abbey Drive: Feb - Apr 2020 completed
  • Monitoring for 21-26 Abbey Drive: planned by May 2020, completed Jun 2020
  • Decision on work for 21-26 Abbey Drive: planned Jun 2020, made Oct 2020
  • Tree felling for 21-26 Abbey Drive: Jul 2020, completed
  • Repairs at 21-26 Abbey Drive: originally Aug - Oct 2020, completed Nov 2020 - Apr 2021
  • Investigation report for 31-45 Church Lane: Mar 2020 received
  • Monitoring for 31-45 Church Lane: planned by Jun 2020, still underway Apr 2021
  • Decision on work for 31-45 Church Lane: originally Jul 2020, deferred as extra monitoring is required
  • Bush removal for 31-45 Church Lane: Jul 2020, completed
  • Felling of protected sycamore tree for 31-45 Church Lane: Council consent granted Apr 2021, felled in Jul 2021
  • Repairs at 31-45 Church Lane: originally Oct - Dec 2020, likely now to be later in 2021 or in 2022 after further monitoring

Some owners in these blocks have reported internal cracking. It was imperative that owners notify the Managing Agent of any internal damage before the decision dates above. It is your responsibility to arrange access for inspection and repairs directly with the loss adjuster and its appointed contractors. If the flat is sub-let, you are also responsible for arranging this with your tenants and ensuring they provide access. If you failed to advise internal damage by the deadline or you or your tenants fail to provide access, you will need arrange and pay for any internal repairs yourself. The insurer is not using the Estate contractors, so they are not authorised nor able to get involved in this work.

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© St Benedicts (Tooting) Management Company Limited - 26 September 2021