Landlords told to consult tenants on digital switch
Landlords must make sure they consult tenants properly before hitting them with large service charge increases to watch digital television.
This is one lesson to emerged from a wide ranging review of the ups and downs experienced by housing providers and residents in the first area to have the analogue signal switched off.
Tenants of one housing association, who were charged £23 a year to switch to the digital signal, felt they had 'not been sufficiently consulted', the report said.
'The need for clear and early consultation between landlords and tenants is key,' it concluded.
Residents at a Two Castles Housing Association scheme in Whitehaven saw their annual service charge for watching TV in communal areas treble (Inside Housing, 28 September). The association's sheltered housing residents saw their annual service charge shoot up from £13.63 to £38 - an increase it said would be entirely spent on the digital system.
Frances Kneller, head of housing and property at Digital UK, said the consultation process could be improved.
'The experience was that some people felt they had not been sufficiently consulted,' she said. 'Landlords would say we had consulted, we have explained. It is a question of interpretation and the level of consultation that people had.'
A circular had been prepared to help landlords run adequate consultation processes, she added. Those that failed to properly inform tenants risked losing their right to claim their service charge costs.
'There is redress,' she said. Tenants unhappy with the level of consultation could appeal to the rent assessment committee and leaseholders to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal.
The report also found that authorities operating in Whitehaven and Copeland in Cumbria were unable to gain access to some tenants' flats to convert their aerials.
'Despite installing the system in plenty of time, immediately prior to the switchover, access had still not been gained to a number of flats, and the authorities did not know whether these flats were therefore at risk of losing television,' the report stated.
Landlords operating in the pilot area had the same kind of difficulties gaining access to tenants' homes as they had when carrying out gas safety checks, Ms Kneller said.
The analogue signal in Copeland and Whitehaven was switched off on 14 November last year. The analogue signal is due to be switched off across the country by 2012.