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Heating Action Group FAQ’s


Who we are

We are a group of Brandon homeowners & leaseholders and want to be treated fairly by LB Southwark with regard to major works, specifically with the recent communal heating upgrades.

What can we do

We want to challenge the suitability & necessity of the recent upgrade of the nine heating riser pumps, and also the proposed replacement of all external pipework to all the tower blocks. We believe that the specification of the new riser pumps constituted an improvement and not a repair. As such, we should never have each been billed for £1,800 per property.


Next Steps

A core group of us have spent time researching these charges. We have spoken with the HomeOwners Council, SGTO, LAS 2000, Leasehold Knowledge Partnership, Lease, and other leaseholder organisations to appraise this case. We intend to unite Brandon leaseholders and set up a crowd-funding campaign to engage technical and legal experts, to prepare a legal case. If we all band together and each contributes a modest amount, we can fight for our rights, and avoid unjust service charges. We will also look to fight against the costs of the replacement pipework.


What can you do?

Firstly, we need to record every heating outage and failure and record the reference numbers given out by the call center. You will also have received a letter regarding the plan to replace the riser pipes – we need to ask as many questions as possible about this latest project.


Background

In 2019 Southwark Council decided to upgrade part of the Brandon district heating system, installing nine new heating riser pumps (2 each for hot water & heating, to provide failover & redundancy) and upgraded the control boards, which distribute the heating & hot water to all the tower blocks. Previous to this upgrade the district heating system worked fine, albeit we had a few breakdowns over the winter season when the heating was switched on, but the system generally worked fine, the flats were warm, and we had no issues with noise. I would guess we had a few heating outages each year, but these were resolved quickly.
Since the new heating risers have been fitted in October 2019, we have had multiple heating outages – I have recorded 48 outages that I have personally reported. There is also a new problem with an unbearable humming noise coming from the pipework if the heating riser pumps are run at over 40% of their operational capacity. Despite that, it is obvious that this humming noise originates in the plant room (it can be heard from the plant room at the base of each block) LB Southwark is insisting that the noise issue is being caused by the existing pipework. This is despite the fact that with the same pipework worked perfectly well with the previous riser pumps, we had no noise issue. It seems pretty obvious that the new riser pumps are totally incompatible with the existing system they were installed into.


What can LB Southwark charge leaseholders for?

Leaseholders can only be billed for repairs and not improvements. The new heating riser pumps & control system is far more sophisticated than the one it replaced, with dual auto-switching pumps, reactive temperature control & switching based on outside temperatures, and remote monitoring software. In our view, this is most definitely an improvement, and as such should not have been charged to leaseholders.
The contractor BSW heating has admitted that the cause of most of the outages is caused by the new sophisticated control system. The new control system provides monitoring of water pressures on each floor. If it detects a pressure change, it presumes there is a leak & resets the system a number of times, before shutting the whole system down.


Can we win?

Yes, we can, please read the link below where in July 2020 a Southwark leaseholder was refunded £4,000 for a failed district heating upgrade.

https://www.fuelpovertyaction.org.uk/press-release/what-are-we-paying-for-tribunal-backs-leaseholder-on-district-heating/

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Riser Pumps

Heating system riser pumps