Saturday 22 August 2020

UPDATED - SCANDALOUS! Brent Council accused of colluding in L&Q's leaseholder exploitation and neglect on 'flagship' South Kilburn Estate new build

For some time now I have seen increasingly desperate messages on Twitter pleading to  Muhammed Butt, Brent Council and L&Q Homes to do something about the state of a new building on the much vaunted regenerated South Kilburn Estate.  The pleas have been ignored so I have offered Lucie Gutfreund, founder of Homeowners of L&Q,  a platform on which to make her case.

This is Lucie's guest post:

Bourne Place with unidentified black cladding

Buying my first home in 2013 was a joyous occasion for me. I worked hard to be finally able to afford a small one bedroom flat on a 25-year mortgage. I couldn’t wait to move into the brand new and shiny Bourne Place development in South Kilburn, phase 1 of the regeneration project partnership of Brent Council and housing association L&Q. The brochure was promising: cost-effective energy through communal heating system, green landscaped spaces and a positive picture of a mixed tenure development, residents on different incomes, with the social purpose of bringing communities together.
I was very naive.

Window Panels
The shininess of my new home was quickly overshadowed by the reality. It didn’t take long before my flat was flooded from the mains; the rubber seals completely decomposed within a couple of years; something my plumber said he had never seen before. I noticed creeping wetness and mould all around the external walls of our block. Since the first winter I have battled with intermittent hot water; at best I would get about 30 seconds of hot water between November and March. I was left without hot water and heating for the majority of the last winter and even through the first months of the pandemic.

Service charges seemed reasonable at the point of sale at £1,100 a year, even though still a bit high considering I am in a ground floor flat with my own entrance and receive no cleaning or day to day maintenance of my property by L&Q. I don’t have access to communal areas of the building. Now I am being asked to pay £2,200 a year, plus  an extra £1,000 to pay this autumn due to L&Q’s overspend last year. That’s £3,200 to pay yearly on top of my mortgage, utility bills and council tax. I can’t afford this. The costs are even more obscene if your flat’s access is via communal areas; £4200 with service charge and overspend combined for one bedroom flat.


We receive appalling service for the charges we are asked to pay. Maintenance is sporadic and often non existent. At one point we had mushrooms growing in communal areas from unattended leaks. Lift cables rusted in a mere few years and had to be changed and we were charged for it. We had rodents and ant infestation. Most landscaping died; we received a revamp of the grounds last year upon my years long complaints but by now most has died off again. Residents’ complaints get ignored and property managers, who change yearly. are nowhere to be seen. Staff on call lines are rude and dismissive and treat us like pests. Random additional amounts of £s are sometimes taken from residents' bank accounts via direct debit.

'Landscaping' 2019

New builds are sold at a premium price due to an assurance that there will be no major costs because the new build warranty is there - usually for 10 years. For years, L&Q would dismiss our concerns about building defects. A property manager would go as far as stating that leaking balconies are architect’s design. When balcony doors started falling off door frames, we were told that we are breaching manufacturer’s guidelines by leaving the doors open - i.e. that we should not be using the doors for what they are intended for. And that L&Q are responsible only for the actual door but we, as homeowners, are responsible for the frame. Eventually it became clear that neither the housing association or the warranty provider have any intention to pay for the repair of defects or do everything possible to avoid submitting a claim to their warranty partners.

Rusted Balcony

Eventually one of our neighbours paid for a survey of her leaky balcony. It finally gave us the proof that there are defects. Another one and a half years on since an estate-wide building survey was finally arranged by L&Q, we are yet to see the numerous problems fixed. We are dismayed by how our blocks could have ever been approved on completion by inspectors.

The communal heating system, promising efficiency and green energy, is another lie we were sold. Under the leasehold system residents do not actually own any communal equipment. L&Q own our communal heating system which means that we have no consumer rights to choose the energy provider. L&Q set up their own in-house energy company, L&Q Energy, and they force onto us their monopoly energy provision at any rate they please and with no service or rate explanation agreement. Worse, they also choose the supplier of electricity for the boilers and the pump as well as for the maintenance. This year they served our three blocks a bill for £138,000 for electricity and maintenance combined. This means a cost of over £1,000 per flat for the privilege of simply being connected to a communal heating system every year.  Energy charges come on top.

Rising Damp in Communal Areas
With the unfolding cladding scandal following the Grenfell disaster, we were in for a big shock last year when we found out our properties are now nil-valued, unmortgageable and unsaleable and potentially a fire hazard. We do have cladding and unknown fire safety status of our insulation and balcony materials. L&Q refuse to conduct the necessary survey, saying our block is the least of their priority being a low-rise and that it can take years for them to survey and remediate all their buildings. The costs are likely to fall in our laps too as the building warranty does not cover cladding defects in buildings completed prior to the amended fire safety regulations in 2018. We despair, realising we have fallen into a trap. We were sold a home, a product which was faulty, and we are now facing being asked to pay to make our homes safe. The new build warranty coming with our new homes is not worth the paper it is written on. We are trapped until our homes are made safe and we pay tens of thousands of pounds for it.

This year we found out that we are also affected by the ground rent scandal. The Competition and Market Authority published their report on leasehold mis-sells and abuses, with one aspect being unjust increases in ground rents. Brent council, via L&Q, sold us a lease with RPI ground rent increases, which the CMA now calls an exploitative practice and a mis-sell. If, at some point in the future, our ground rent exceeds £1,000, our homes will legally turn into assured tenancies and will become unsaleable. We are pleased to hear that the CMA will be bringing prosecutions and we hope they will shed the light on social landlords and councils as well.

Brent Council, the mastermind behind the South Kilburn regeneration project, our freeholder of land and partner to L&Q, has expressed little interest in helping us. Muhammed Butt, Brent council leader, states that our cladding problems have nothing to do with the council. Despite the fact that the council collects £18,000 a year from leaseholders in the three blocks for ground rent, making Brent our landlord, Mr. Butt doesn’t think that compels the council to even speak up on behalf their residents.

Discoloured Exterior Brickwork

A local housing councillor who visited our estate last year dismissed the majority of our defects as ‘just fine’ because her father is a builder and therefore she knows. Even though we have a building survey saying otherwise. We were promised support but a year on we have not seen any real action from the council and staff responsible for Brent’s relationship with housing associations continue to change. When we went to press in 2019 to complain about the state of our estate, Brent council stated in response in Brent & Kilburn Times, that L&Q are their trusted partner and ‘provider of quality housing’ and hence dismissing anything our residents had reported.

Despite our misery, Mr. Butt is proud to display his name on the walls of our development on a plaque celebrating our estate as a milestone in South Kilburn regeneration project. He seems to care little that behind these walls live actual residents, people who were mis-sold costly and potentially unsafe leasehold tenancies; homes with numerous defects under false promises of high-quality homes based on the South Kilburn Regeneration Master Plan. For us, our homes have become a noose around our necks and a major source of unhappiness and mental anguish when dealing daily with the rogue and incompetent housing association, the social landlord and partner of Brent Council.

From Anna O'Neill (@Annareporting)

Some residents have said they would need to look for second jobs to be able to pay for the ever increasing costs of service charges and our communal heating system. I have given up two years of my life raising awareness and fighting for our homes to be fixed and maintained by L&Q. I am getting nowhere. Some days I am finding this extremely hard. And there is no sight of end to this abuse or having our homes finally fixed.

The joint landlords of our homes, the housing association L&Q and Brent Council, continue to ignore us and exploit us financially. After all, that is what the intention of the cross-subsidy model of social housing is: sell a leaseholder a dream of homeownership, make them a mere tenant with no rights or control over their homes and use them as cash cows to fund social housing, under a threat of forfeiting their home if they don’t pay. Leasehold is abuse and councils actively participate in this web of exploitation.

Lucie Gutfreund
founder of Homeowners of L&Q

Since this article was published on Saturday it has nee folowed up by Harrow Times and the Brent and Kilburn Times and other media outlets.

The issue regarding EWS1 forms has been taken up by the LBC radio station.  These are the forms that have to be completed to indicate a property is safe before the owner can sell.  Without the form the owner is effectively imprisoned in a worthless property. LINK

BBC Radio London interviewed Lucie on Thursday August 27th in a programme about the leasehold scandal.  The main segment begins at 19.56


Anonymous said...

This scandal has got your name on it Mo - literally!!!

Elisabetta said...

Thank you Lucie for giving voice to our frustrations. We would welcome Brent council to take an interest in the serious issues of its residents

Philip Grant said...

I agree that what Lucie and her fellow residents in South Kilburn have been put through by L&Q (and its development partner Brent Council) is scandalous. It brings more shame to the reputation of housing associations, and one that I was there at the "birth" of.

My first career, on leaving university in 1972, was in housing management, working as a trainee housing manager with the London Housing Trust in Brixton. We were a small charitable housing association, set up in the 1960s (the inspiration of a former Conservative Minister of Housing, Sir Keith Joseph).

Our association bought old, run-down houses (using money borrowed on mortgages from the GLC or the local councils in whose areas we worked - Lambeth, Wandsworth and Hackney), and improved/converted them to flats or family homes up to modern standards, for people in housing need (nominated by the local councils or charities / voluntary groups helping with their problems).

In late 1973, we learned that negotiations were underway to merge LHT with the Quadrant Housing Association. This was based in Deptford, and although it had a similar number of properties to us, about 650 homes each then, it was a much larger operation - twice the number of staff, and organised into departments like a mini-local authority.

Quadrant was run by Antony Fletcher, an ex-GLC Conservative councillor, who (we understood) also had his own property business - he drove a Jensen Interceptor, with a personalised number plate, and was quite unlike the more staid, but committed charitable social housing leaders of LHT.

Despite the concerns that our small team had, the merger went ahead. The style and ethos of the new London and Quadrant Housing Association felt very different to the association I had joined, and by the end of 1974 I had found myself a job at small charitable housing association in West London.

They say that great oaks grow from small acorns. The acorn that was London Housing Trust, fifty years ago, seems to have become one arm of a large monster. It saddens me to see the L&Q of today, and the way they treat their tenants and leaseholders.

Lucie Gutfreund said...

Thank you Philip for this interesting response. It is a fascinating story. What started as a housing association with a genuine purpose to help the disadvantaged has evolved into an exploitative corporate giant.

I have not highlighted the stories of social tenants at our mixed-used estate, just one of leaseholders, but there is more to tell there on how they are treated by L&Q. If we get lucky in some cases to get something fixed, the social tenants do not. They are treated like second class citizens. Many, I am told, are afraid to speak up because they would be bullied by L&Q and they already went through a trauma of the rehousing in South Kilburn and saw many tenants not rehoused locally and shipped off elsewhere. Some are frightened to lose their homes here.

Anonymous said...

This is what L&Q say about their Vision and Values on their website - do they live up to them?:

Our Vision is that everyone has a quality home they can afford.

Our mission is to combine our social purpose and commercial drive to create homes and neighbourhoods you can be proud of.

Our Values are:

People - we care about the happiness and wellbeing of our customers and our employees

Passion - we approach everything with energy, drive, determination and enthusiasm

Inclusion - we draw strength from our differences and work collaboratively

Responsibility - we own problems and deliver effective, lasting solutions

Impact - we measure what we do by the difference we make

Philip Grant said...

I went to the Companies House website to see how much profit L&Q Energy Ltd is making (

Their first accounts were supposed to be drawn up to 31 March 2019, but then they put in a notification to change that to the 16 months from November 2018 to 31 March 2020.

Those first accounts have yet to be submitted to Companies House, but it would be worth checking that website every couple of months to see when the accounts come in, and what they show.

The 'person with significant control' over this company is, of course, London and Quadrant Housing Trust, and the company's directors are all directors of L&Q, giving their address as its HQ offices at:
29-35 West Ham Lane, London, United Kingdom, E15 4PH

Anonymous said...

Having just read the Brent Poverty Commission report and its recommendations, it makes me angry to read Brent's shameful handling of this situation. Brent Council and Cllrs appear complete hypocrites. What hope is there of them being able reduce poverty and improve residents' lives and their long term prospects (aims of the report) if they fail to understand some of the fundamental causes of poverty/deprivation, mental anguish and sub-standard housing. The idea is to lift people out of poverty and improve mental wellbeing. Perhaps Cllr Eleanor Southwood could get Lord Best to look into this matter also. I am sure he could add a few more recommendations to his report.

Stella said...

Very sad to hear this. I am a private property owner living between two L&Q properties for past 27 years. Alot of distressing the tears flooding etc into my property. LQ treatment appalling. Now have threatened me with legal action if I complain again. Can these issue be brought up in Parliament?

Stella said...

Very sad to hear this. I am a private property owner living between two L&Q properties for past 27 years. Alot of distressing the tears flooding etc into my property. LQ treatment appalling. Now have threatened me with legal action if I complain again. Can these issue be brought up in Parliament?

Philip Grant said...

As an aside, here is a little piece of history:

'In the Greater London Plan standards for the allocation of land use have been determined according to the four population density zones. The area covered by the South Kilburn Redevelopment Scheme is situated within the Inner Urban Zone, for which a net density of 100 persons per acre with four acres of open space per 1,000 population is proposed.'

This statement, from "The Willesden Survey, 1949", was part of the Borough of Willesden's top priority post-war redevelopment plans, with South Kilburn having been identified as the first area to be tackled, because of its overcrowding (more than 120 persons per acre) and the poor quality of its existing properties (mostly built between 1875 and 1895).

Why have standards slipped so much, when we are meant to learn from history, in order to improve people's lives?

Anonymous said...

I hope Brent Council respond to this soon, it sounds shameful.

Lucie Gutfreund said...

Stella, thank you for your comment. Can you please get in touch? I run Homeowners of L&Q, a closed group for private leaseholders/ shared owners with L&Q, discussing how to approach the atrocious services, service charges and cladding entrapment.
We also have a closed FB group.

Fuel Poverty Action said...

Problems like these are shockingly common -- tho this catalogue is one of the worst I've seen. Fuel Poverty Action, which I am a member of, is working to bring legal cases on district heating issues (hard, because it is not regulated, but there have been some victories). We'd also be glad to talk to you, Lucie. Please email us at
Is there a Tenants and Residents Association?
Such a hard battle!
Ruth London