Sorry this is a continuation of the above. I did not realise that I was limited to space.
Within 24 hours I received an email from the electricity supplier informing me that there had been an error in the charges levied and that a refund of £13.646 was being authorised by the supplier to the landlords.
This was eventually returned to our service charge account.
The residents agreed to leave the credit in the service charge account for a year in order to see exactly how much the communal electricity cost for that year. It transpired that the actual usage was less than £1000, not £9000 as we were told.
The credit remained in our account but the residents decided to spend some of it on communal improvements.
When we received our Rent & Service Review letters in May this year we found that we now had a communal electricity charge levied against us for £17.000 in used electricity.
A number of residents contacted the landlords to ask why this was but none were given the reason, they were merely told that an explanation would be given at the scheduled landlord/tenants meeting on 16 Jun 11.
When the information was again requested by residents in order for them to have a meeting among themselves prior to the 16 Jun 11 meeting they were denied the information and were again told that the explanation would be given at the meeting. However the person refusing to give us the information we wanted insisted on us giving her information about the other issues we had regarding service charges prior to the 16 June meeting.
During the meeting on 16 Jun 11 residents were given several sheets regarding monies which had been outlayed in regard to services provided by the landlords to our complex. Some were for service that we did not even have, for example payments for a TV Licence.
We were then told that the reason for the increase in the communal electricity charges from under £1000 to over £17.000 was because of an agreement reached between the landlords and the communal electricity supplier.
When the Hosing Coordinator was asked what this agreement was, when was it agreed, what in fact was the £17.000 and what was the actual amount of electricity used in the communal areas over the last year she could not answer the questions.
She did say she would 'try' to find out.
It has now been over three weeks since that meeting and still no information has been given regarding the above by the landlords, despite requests.
The residents also asked why they were not informed about this agreement prior to the receipt of their Rent & Service Charge Review and why we were not consulted over such a substantial increase. The Housing Coordinator was also asked why we were expected to pay such a great amount over just one year because this meant that the charges for our communal electricity had effectively been raised from £31 per year to £600 per year, per flat.
There are several other issues regarding the service charges in this complex which also add up to a considerable amount.
I have since discovered that the agreement between the landlords and the electricity supplier was reached on 21 Jan 11 so how is it that our landlords cannot, or will not answer the questions we have asked or why is it they did not deem it right to inform us much earlier of the impending increase?
I have been informed that the person responsible for setting water and service charges for our landlords is our Housing Coordinator. When she was asked if she was financially qualified to set such complicated charges she said she was not but when she has all the figures she inputs it into a computer program and that program decides what the charges should be.
I have also been informed, although this cannot yet be substantiated, that the person responsible for the agreement between the landlords and the electricity supplier is no longer with the landlords.
Over the last three years I have put in something like 200 hours work with regard to the water and service charges issues and trying to get these issues resolved. I do not feel this should be my responsibility but if someone does not query what appears to be going on we are likely to have our service charges virtually doubled every year.
Another issue arose last year when our landlords decided to charge us twice for the water used in our complex and it took a considerable amount of time to convince them and make them reluctantly admit that they had.
I live in a sheltered housing complex which house 29 flats containing many elderly people, people with serious disabilities, or both and most of us are beginning to think that our landlords think us decrepit, past it and senile and that all they need to do is give us our rent & service charge reviews and we will blindly pay them without any form of complaint or query.
If, after reading this you can give me some advice as to what we can do I will appreciate it greatly.
I and the residents have not yet put in an official complaint about what has been going on to our landlords but of course this is likely to be done very shortly.
I have spoken to TPAS, the Housing Ombudsman, the Audit Commission and the TSA about this but I must say they do not seem to be too interested.
I feel we have had insult to injury thrust upon us because in February this year TPAS saw fit to give our landlords the official TPAS accreditation.