In addition to Board members, six residents (who were also lessees) were present. Five Board members attended and two representatives of Stiles Harold Williams (SHW). Kinleigh Folkard & Hayward (KFH) were not represented (Linda Foss was on holiday).
The Board Chair, Geoffrey Barraclough (GB) summarised how we had go to this point, explaining the role of SHW (who would make money out of any contracts placed under their supervision; not KFH).
SHW ran through the indicative figures for the ten year maintenance plan, provided to attendees (and published on the website). SHW stressed that all of the figures were derived from methods in wide us, but were nonetheless necessarily indicative: it would only be possible to know what the works would actually cost when they were actually tendered.
Various questions were put by lessees and answered (by SHW and Board members):
- How could we be sure that works would be completed properly? SHW described the snagging, practical completion and retention process. A Board member pointed out that SHW traded on their reputation and would be anxious to have a good relationship with AML, a typical client;
- Would the roofs have to be done again? No – apart from some relatively minor maintenance, i.e. what was to be expected after five years;
- Could the asphalting be delayed? Yes, but that was not advisable as it would probably cost more later;
- Did we have to pay for the work on the boundary walls (the walls holding up e.g. the gardens on the Grantully side nearest to the building)? Yes we did as AML was the freeholder. There were two ways of doing this work: one, a thorough maintenance (less expensive and the costing in the plan); the other a more expensive but permanent solution (not in the plan);
- Could we not simply remove the trip hazard on approaches to front doors rather than rebuild the link bridges? No – the link bridges were absorbing water and needed a substantial overhaul otherwise the trip hazard would simply reappear;
- What were the advantages of the fire alarm? The system would be inter-linked within blocks, i.e. if there was a fire in one part of a block then the alarms would go off in another part. It would be best practice to have such a system (most sensibly installed when we did internal maintenance), but was not mandatory. One lessee suggested we carried out a poll of lessees and went with the majority view of what was likely to cost c. £900 per flat;
- Could we do some more minor maintenance of the common parts? This led to a discussion of the balance between the routine maintenance budget (from which this sort of work ought to come) and major works: the former should reduce as the latter was carried out properly. An inconclusive exchange took place between a lessee and a Board member on the value of payments in the previous year or two on routine maintenance.
GB summarised the financial position. A lessee asked if we could delay the programme rather than face c. £7,000 of costs per flat over the next few years, on top of what lessees were currently budgeting to spend. In essence it was possible, but it seemed now as though further delay would put costs up.
The current ten year plan included two cycles of maintenance. The reality was that we would pause after the first round to see when we had to do it again. However, we had got into the costly situation we were now in because there had been too long a pause and the reserve fund had been suspended after the last major works: this was something the Board wanted to avoid repeating.
GB added that there was a choice between one-off levies and increasing the reserve fund contributions in order to pay for major works. There were advantages to one-off levies (you only asked for what you needed once you knew what it was; this did not increase the reserve fund contributions, which might affect house prices) and to increasing the reserved fund (easier to collect the monies; smoother payment profile for lessees). An August meeting of the Board would make a decision – there were other options which were compromises between the two approaches.
SHW and GB summarised the likely next steps, i.e. a Board meeting at which a budget could be set, releasing SHW to carry out tendering; lessees would consulted contract by contract in the normal way and as the law required. Works would start only in the late spring/summer of 2010.
GB adjourned the meeting thanking all present for a helpful discussion.