Tenants prepare to fight 'crippling' service charges
The London Mayor has pledged to help tenants struggling to pay service charge bills in mixed-tenure developments amid claims many are being forced into debt in one of the capital's largest schemes.
Up to 100 residents of the Greenwich Millennium Village are preparing to take housing association Moat, the estate manager, to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal because they are unable to pay their service charge bills.
They claim that housing association Moat, the estate manager had promised their service charges would be paid by Greenwich Council. Nikki Raza, a 30-year-old single mother, has fallen £600 into arrears since moving into the Holly Court block from a council maisonette in October last year.
‘I want out,' she told Inside Housing. ‘I told the council that I suffer from chronic anxiety and depression, which was confirmed by my GP, months ago. Living here has made that worse.'
Hoa Luu, another Holly Court tenant, said she faced arrears of around £2,000. She has been forced to carry her seven-year-old daughter, who suffers from cerebral palsy, up to her fourth-floor flat because of problems with the lift.
'If we had known earlier how much the costs would be, at least we could have budgeted for it,' she said.
Greenwich Housing Rights advisor Dermott McGibben is representing four tenants for the tribunal case but said up to 100 could take action.
'We are waiting for more information but the tenants' next step is to appeal to the leasehold Valuation Tribunal,' he said. Alan Benson, the mayor's head of housing and homelessness, told Inside Housing that service charges were taking a larger chunk out of tenants' rents, particularly in high-density developments.
‘We are aware of the situation and it is becoming an increasing problem.' The mayor's office was drawing up a strategy to tackle the issue, he added. Susan Cooper, regional director of Moat, said: ‘The issue of service charges and affordability in high value mixed-tenure developments is a wider sector issue and one that is of continued concern to us.
'However we do feel that the charges at GMV are reasonable in relation to the high levels of service provided to residents.'
A spokesperson for Greenwich Council said it was happy to discuss Ms Raza's housing situation with her: 'Greenwich Council is in discussion with Moat regarding its service charges. Moat is responding positively and seeking to adjust charges where possible.'