Month: September 2011

Heating and Hot Water – IMPORTANT

Dear Flat Owner

Central Heating and Hot Water

As I mentioned in the recent budget circular, we are reaching the point where we have to take some serious decisions about the central heating and hot water system.

The system gives patchy coverage, is expensive to operate and is increasingly leaky. Worse, because many of the hot water pipes are insulated with asbestos, the leaks are disruptive and can be very expensive to repair.

We have commissioned a report from Peter Ellis, an expert heating engineer recommended by kfh. His report attached with this note and would like to invite you to a flat owners’ meeting to discuss his finding and recommendations.

The meeting will take place at Paddington Sports Club, Castellain Road at 7 pm on Tuesday 27th September.

The main conclusions of the report are:

  • The central heating boiler is in good working order but is nearing the end of its life. Major parts are no longer available so the boiler would need to be replaced in the event of a serious failure.  The hot water boilers are new and in excellent condition.
  • There are two independent networks of pipes that take the hot water and central heating water around the estate. Both networks are 60 years old, inefficient, severely narrowed by the formation of sludge and scale and leaky; but too fragile to clean with chemical flushing
  • The radiators in individual flats are generally in good condition but old and inefficient.

The engineer’s two preferred options are either:

  1. Every flat moves to independent heating and hot water. This would be disruptive, as you would need to find space for a boiler and run new pipes around your flat. But you would gain control over your own environment and, in most cases, we think your bills would be lower.
  1. We continue to supply heating and hot water communally but invest in a new, state of the art, system fit for the next 60 years. This would involve both a new boiler and new pipes running either round the outside of the building or up the stairwells to connect each flat.

Both options will be disruptive and involve significant upfront expensive although your running costs will very probably reduce in both cases. There are some costings in the report but these are very rough estimates at this stage

The legalities and logistics of a decision to move to independent heating are not straightforward and will require an overwhelming consensus among flat owners. Our professional advisors can cite us no examples of a leaseholder owned block moving from communal to independent heating while the flats are occupied.

There is a third option:

  1. Do nothing. We continue with our antiquated and inefficient system. We cross our fingers that nothing bad happens in the middle of winter. We deal with leaks as and when they occur and replace the main boiler when we absolutely have to. As and when the system leaks or the boiler finally expires, you may be without hot water or heating for some days and, if the source of a leak is in your flat, you may well have to move out while specialist contractors attend to the asbestos. In a block where flats change hands for upwards of £750K, I struggle, personally, to see the “do nothing” option as a sensible solution.

Please read the report that has been mailed to you. The board has not taken any decision about which option to pursue or when to take action. And we won’t, without a thorough consultation with you, the flat owners. You own Ashworth Mansions. It’s your system and it’s your decision on how to proceed and at what pace to do so. Please come to the meeting and participate in the decision-making. If you can’t attend, drop me a line or call me and let me know your views.

Yours faithfully

Geoffrey Barraclough

Chair, Ashworth Mansions Ltd

2011/12 Budget and other matters

Dear Flat Owner

I do hope you’ve had a pleasant summer and been able to enjoy the good weather in our garden. With autumn approaching, there are few matters I’d like to update you about.

2011/12 Budget

Ashworth Mansions’ financial year begins on 29 September and I’m writing to let you know about the level of service charges for the coming 12 months. The total budget will rise by 3% from £669K to £687K.

As you know, we are currently in year two of a four-year refurbishment programme of the estate. As a reminder, we decided to stagger the work over four years in order to spread the cost to flat owners. Phase one, the Elgin Avenue frontage, is largely complete to our satisfaction and the contractors are currently finishing the last details. Phase two, the Grantully Road front and sides, is in full swing and progressing reasonably well. Overall project costs have been pretty much as predicted in the 10 year plan prepared by SHW in 2009, apart from the increase in VAT.

We plan to commence phase three, the rear of the Elgin Avenue blocks, next Spring and will raise a further £325K from flat owners to finance this. This sum is the same as we charged last year and is divided between the regular reserve fund contribution of £175K and a one-off special contribution of £150K. We expect to make similar charges in 2012 to fund phase four.

Once we get to 2013, our reserves will be dry but the estate will be in good shape for the future.  At that point, we will need to decide how we make provision for the future cost of major works.

The main service charge will rise by £18K to £298K. The increase is driven primarily by a £14K hike our insurance charge to £78K, its highest level since kfh took over the management of the estate. This year’s premium is likely to reflect an ongoing series of claims for  the costly repairs of leaks to the asbestos covered pipe-work of the hot water system. The overall main service charge increase is 6.5% as we have kept most other budget items flat. The heating and hot water service charge is unchanged at £63K including a £5K contribution to a reserve fund.

Heating and hot water

You will have seen my comments in previous letters about the communal heating and hot water system. In my view, we are reaching the point where we will need to take some serious decisions about the system; either to invest in upgrading it to 21st Century standards or to de-commission it and move to an independent boiler in each flat. The number of leaks appearing in the hot water pipes since we installed the new hot water boilers has increased the urgency.

We have commissioned an independent engineers report and will hold a flat owners’ meeting on the subject towards the end of September. If you own a flat on the system, you will be receiving a copy of the report and a note of the meeting in due course.

Cold water mains

28 flats have now connected to the new cold water mains and are benefiting from high pressure supply 24/7. The remaining 76 flats are still fed by gravity from the tanks in the attics above each stairwell.

These tanks cost money to maintain – they are regularly inspected and cleaned – and are now very close to the end of their natural lives. We’re told that it will cost £80K to replace these tanks and it’s expenditure we’re anxious to avoid. If you have made the switch, please talk to your neighbours and encourage them to connect.

Garden Party

Many thanks to Pamela Knudson and Charlotte Wood for organizing the summer garden party. Everyone had a fine time and we’re grateful to kfh and Greene & Co for their financial support of the event. We now have a couple of small gazebos and a new barbecue that you’re welcome to use for small social gatherings. Daron can tell you more

Kind regards

Geoffrey Barraclough

Chair, Ashworth Mansions Ltd


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