August 2012 – Bike Shed Lock Change

Okay, so as of Friday, all but one of the new bike shed keys have been distributed to those who have asked for them, we expect the lock change to be happening tomorrow (Wednesday 1st of August), but it may take several days for the contractor to actually do the work. For anyone who hasn’t got a new key yet (or if you would like additional keys), you should still get in touch with Aspect and they will be able to get you a new key posted out.

To be clear, the bike shed keys are now unique to each shed. We had hoped to retain the common keying to allow people to change sheds if they wished, but failed to make that clear at the time of requesting the works, and I take responsibility for that. On the up-side, that will act to improve security, by limiting the number of people with access to any given shed.

As another a pleasant side effect of getting the locks changed, the resident who has been parking their motorbike in one of the sheds has been told quite clearly that it is not allowed, and they should be removing it forthwith. If anyone knows of any other bulky items in any of the sheds which are taking up space, then please do contact the committee and let us know. We have already made a quick pass over the shed between Sinclair Close and 18 Sinclair Place to clear out some of the dumped junk, and I personally hope to find some time to make sure the other sheds are similarly cleared up.

May 2012 – General Update

My apologies for the lack of regular news postings here, rest assured that things have been progressing, just that lack of free time (and a two week holiday abroad) has limited my ability to post here. A short summary of recent events:

April committee meeting

This went ahead on the 18th of February, discussing issues such as fly-tipping, the external paintworks / refurbishment, and development lighting. Full minutes are still being written up, and I hope to have them posted within a fortnight.

External Paintworks

This item was highest on our list of needed refurbishments: the paintwork on almost all of the external doors of the development has decayed badly, and we were concerned that waiting any longer would result in damage to the woodwork. Aspect have provided an acceptable quote (roughly £15 per property), and work is due to commence on the 11th of June. Further notices will be put up around the stairwells to be painted to alert residents of the work.

There are other external paintworks planned and not yet approved by the committee; namely the painting of the external railings surrounding the estate, as well as the painting of the building exterior balcony rails. The cost, specification and expected timescale for these refurbishments is still under discussion.

Fly-tipping / refuse issues

In mid-May, some inconsiderate residents parking so as to obstruct the council refuse lorry’s access to the bin store by 19 Sinclair Place meant that those bins were not emptied. While we can’t control non-residents parking, please can all residents avoid parking outside of their allocated spaces at all times (not just on refuse collection days). Obstructing the car park means that emergency vehicles will also have trouble gaining access to properties.

We have also had a glut of people fly-tipping furniture and bulky items by the bin stores. I have written up a general advice page here, but to sum up:

  • Fly tipping is illegal, and costs us all to deal with it. If you see someone dumping, please report it to Aspect.
  • If Aspect arrange collection, it is considerably more costly. Instead, please arrange collection of the items yourself and the cost will be re-imbursed to you by Aspect.
  • If you aren’t prepared to do this, please contact Aspect to alert them to the items, and they will contact a committee member so that a pickup can be arranged.

Bike Shed Lock Change

As agreed at the January AGM, the bike shed locks will be changed on or around the 1st of August. The new keys will be secure, and cannot be copied by proprietors. Proprietors / residents should contact Aspect to purchase a new key, at a cost of no more than £13.60 per key.

Keys requested by 9th of July will be delivered prior to the locks being changed, so if you don’t want to be without access to the sheds, it’s important you contact Aspect in advance of that date.

Billing

Aspect have migrated to a newer, more capable software system to handle the development billing. The first quarterly invoice using the new system was inspected by the Treasurer as per the previous agreement, and no errors in apportionment or figures were found, which is great news.

Subsequently it has emerged that there has been a minor glitch in the handling of monthly standing orders, please contact Aspect if you find that payments made to your account are not reflected in your statement. Aspect have assured us that the problem will not recur on the next invoice.

May 2012 – Garden Improvements

The eagle eyed amongst you will have hopefully noticed the various changes to the gardens around the development. As mentioned in the February committee meeting minutes, we agreed a planting budget of £500 for the Roots n’ Shoots team to start filling in all the unsightly bare patches around the gardens.

New plantings

This, combined with the increased maintenance budget that means the gardeners will be on site much more often (every week instead of every fortnight), should get us some much needed improvements all around the estate.

More new plantings

We’ve already done one walk-around with the gardeners and factors, to agree on the work that needs tackled most urgently (mostly replanting of bare areas and replacing dead plants, and attending to the fountain in Sinclair Gardens). The intention is that a gardening sub-committee of sorts will do more such walk-arounds over the summer, until we have a clear list of areas we think need improving, that the gardening team can attend to over time. If any residents have any comments on the gardens, or particular areas they’d like to see tackled, we’d be eager to hear them. Please do comment on the general mailing list with your thoughts, and let us know if you’d like to get involved in the gardening discussion.

September / October 2011 Billing

Update: There have been some errors which we’ve identified as slipping through after the invoices were audited. They include £25 cost for a fountain repair, apportioned 346 ways instead of 306 ways and a missing charge for a roofing repair; both of which will be refunded and recharged in the next invoice.

The bill, produced and sent out on the 2nd of December, is the first where the newly formed committee has had a chance to work with the factors to audit the invoices before they were sent out. As a result, we’ve had a chance to spot any mistakes early, and also work with Aspect to correct mistakes we’d identified in recent billing cycles. As a result, there are far more charges on the invoice marked ‘refund’ and ‘recharge’ than there would be normally. This is the mechanism by which the charges are corrected so that they are apportioned correctly.

It should be noted that this invoice is for two months only instead of the usual three. This was a decision on Aspect’s part, in an attempt by them to make the process go more smoothly.

Since there were more errors than could be readily explained in the header of the invoice, we wanted to explain them here, so that the factors could simply point concerned proprietors in the direction of this post for a more detailed explanation. For additional reference, consult the list of types of charges we expect, which details how they should be apportioned. Here are the corrections:

Electricity correction

After the AGM in January, it was agreed that the electricity should be split evenly amongst the entire development (i.e. we each pay an equal share of the entire electricity costs, rather than each stairwell paying for their own meter). This was needed to even out the disparity caused by some stairwells having external lighting and fountains attached to them where the others do not. However in the two previous billing quarters (March/April/May and June/July/August), the electricity had been summed, and the charged distributed amongst only the 292 properties in Sinclair Close / Gardens / Place. The properties in Gorgie Road and Stewart Terrace paid no electricity for those two quarters, even for their own stairwell lighting.

This has been rectified by refunding all six months worth of electricity to the SC / SG / SP properties, and recharging the entire development (332 properties) for those 6 months. If you live in SC / SG / SP, you’ll see six refunds for electricity, and six recharges for a smaller amount (e.g. £2.75 instead of £3.12). If you live in Gorgie Road or Stewart Terrace, you’ll see 6 recharges, but no refunds.

Electricity apportionment

For the September / October period, the electricity costs are split into two parts: internal and external. Internal is all of the stair lighting, external is all of the fountains, bollard lighting, etc. The reason for this is that the town-houses are responsible for a share of the external electricity costs (which fall under the ‘maintenance of the common parts of the development’), but not for the internal electricity costs (which fall under the ‘maintenance of the common parts of the building). So, there are two charges for each month; the internal cost (split 332 ways, amongst all the flats), and the external cost (split 346 ways amongst all the flats and the town-houses).

The exact split of electricity costs (9% external, 91% internal) was based on analysis of the previous 6 years of electricity charges, and agree by a committee vote to be fair. The split amount will be monitored so as to make sure that it is still considered to be correct, based on current and future meter readings.

Communal Garden Maintenance

In July, this was incorrectly split 306 ways (Sinclair flats + town-houses), not 292 ways (Sinclair flats only). The agreement was to charge the town-houses from August onwards. So properties in SC / SG / SP should see a refund, and then a recharge for a slightly higher amount (£2.48 instead of £2.36)

Communal Fountain Maintenance

Like the Garden Maintenance, this was incorrectly split 306 ways instead of 292 ways, in both June and July. Properties in SC / SG / SP should see a refund, then a recharge for a slightly higher amount (£0.30 instead of £0.28)

Refurbishment Fund

The town-houses do not contribute to the refurbishment fund (because they are not refurbished by the factor), however the refurbishment fund payment in the June/July/August invoice was split 346 ways (all flats + town-houses) instead of 332 ways (all flats). This resulted in a shortfall in the refurbishment fund, and so an additional charge of £134.40 was made, split 332 ways, to bring it back up to the correct amount. To be clear, the properties paying into the refurbishment fund should have still only paid £10 each for that quarter, £9.59 last quarter, and an additional £0.41 this quarter.

The refurbishment fund amount for this quarter was £6.67, on account of the fact that it only covers a period of 2 months instead of 3.

Insurance excesses

In previous quarters, insurance excesses have been charged equally to the entire development (332 ways). Aspect have decided, and the committee agrees, that the insurance excess costs should be borne by the buildings incurring them. We felt that this would encourage proprietors in the poorly performing buildings to take note and maintain their properties better to avoid water damage claims, and would reward proprietors in buildings with a good claims history.

Since our excesses are very high for water damage claims (£5000 for some buildings), it was felt that limiting the share to a single building would result in problems, as a single £5000 claim could result in a per-property cost in the hundreds of pounds. To limit the impact of this, and the potential for property owners to be unable or unwilling to pay, excess costs will be shared amongst several buildings, grouped by the size of their insurance excess. For example, an excess incurred by 1 Sinclair Gardens would be shared not amongst the building (1-5 SG), but amongst the 3 buildings (235, 241, 247 GR, 4 ST, 1-5 SG and 1-6 SC, comprising 132 flats) that have a £5000 excess. This limits the maximum excess for any one claim to around £38. More importantly, the buildings with a good claims history and low excess do not have to pay for the excess.

For information, the four insurance groups are:

  • A: 235, 241, 247 Gorgie Road, 4 Stewart Terrace, 1-5 Sinclair Gardens and 1-6 Sinclair Close. 132 flats in total, and a £5000 excess per claim, meaning a maximum of ~£38 per claim.
  • B: 3-6 Sinclair Place. 44 flats in total, and a £2500 excess per claim, meaning a maximum of ~£57 per claim.
  • C: 1-2, 24-26, 30-31 Sinclair Place. 80 flats in total, and a £1500 excess per claim, meaning a maximum of ~£19 per claim.
  • D: 18-20, 27-29, 32 Sinclair Place. 76 flats in total, and a £1000 excess per claim, meaning a maximum of ~£13 per claim.

November 2011 – Yellow Line Painting

If you live nearby, you’ll probably have noticed two bits of yellow line painting done over the last week. The first was to refresh the hatched box at the bottom of Sinclair Close which had become somewhat faded. The second was to paint an entirely new box in front of the sub-station next to 7 Sinclair Place. The cost for this should be around £400, split amongst the Sinclair development (306 ways).

The reason for this was fairly straightforward: the council refuse lorries have to come into that area of the development to reach two sets of bin stores (one between 1 and 6 Sinclair Place, the other next to 19 Sinclair Place). When cars are parked in the area by the sub-station, it means that the refuse lorry cannot get out of the area without a difficult reversing manoeuvre, or by doing a U-turn near to 18 Sinclair Place (which is what they have been doing). In the process, the heavy refuse lorry goes over (or in a case from early November: straight through) the parking poles, damaging them. It was agreed with the council that we would paint lines to prevent parking in that area, allowing the refuse lorry to perform a three-point turn by reversing into that area.

What happens when a 10 tonne refuse lorry decides to go over your parking space

This is particularly relevant because by getting the refuse lorry to reverse into that area means that when it travels over the area of damaged mono-block, it is doing so more slowly, and also not cornering at the same time. This should hopefully minimise additional damage there, and mean that we have longer before an expensive repair is required.

November 2011 – Gutter Cleaning

Just to make everyone aware, Nancy has informed me that the gutter cleaning has been arranged for the week beginning the 28th of November. This is for all stairwells (both in the Gorgie and Sinclair developments) but not the town-houses; the cost per property will be around £34, which includes both gutter cleaning as well as some limited tile repairs and checking of drainage.