One Housing Group (OHG) has notified residents it is carrying out an internal review of its service charges. We have also been informed OHG are undergoing an ‘In Depth Assessment’ by the Regulator of Social Housing that has ben ongoing for several months.
SHAC recently published a report into apparent sharp service charge practice across the sector. The report was produced after a survey of housing association tenants and residents. Shortly after publication, Clarion Housing Group announced a widespread audit of its service charging and complaints processes (see here).
OHG has written to tenants and residents apologising to them for errors and saying that they will be making “a concerted effort to communicate more frequently” regarding service charges. They have also contacted residents on one estate saying that to address their mistakes:
we are reviewing all the services and invoices relating to your home and wil produce a new set of accounts with supporting invoiced information. To give further assurance in the work we are undertaking, we will be working with external auditors to validate your accounts.
Although this news is welcome, it is a long time overdue. OHG tenants have complained for years about service charge errors, repeatedly challenging the bills and requesting invoices. Year on year, tenants and residents have faced a battle. Yet this letter shows that OHG could have acted at any time to curtail the stress and provide accurate accounts.
OHG has been subjected to numerous complaints for failing to address cladding issues affecting many of its blocks of flats. There have also been consistent repairs and maintenance problems which have left families without heating and hot water for long periods. The landlord’s negligence prompted the creation of One Housing Residents Action Group (OHG Action @OHGResidents) which started as a couple of angry residents. But within just a few weeks gained hundreds of members from various estates around the country. Read more here.
One Housing Group has operating margins of approximately 21% according to their 2019/20 accounts, and operating surpluses of over £46 million.
The promises made by the landlord are just a first step. OHG needs to clean up its act and implement rigorous controls so that it can be sure every penny charged to hard pressed tenants is valid and justified.
SHAC Service Charge Survey
The scandal of tenants and residents being ripped off by housing associations was exposed when SHAC conducted a Service Charge Survey amongst tenants and residents. The results were published at the beginning of December. The problems identified include:
- Annual service charge rises vastly outstripping inflation
- Frequent and high overcharging errors (compared to rare and low undercharging errors)
- Difficulties getting errors addressed, with long delays and failures to get refunds
- Bills that are not itemised, making it difficult for residents to know what they are being charged for
- Efficiency savings not being passed on to tenants and residents, with increased supplier costs always being passed on
We are keen to get copies of any letters relating to service charge reviews. Please send these to us here.
If you would like to join a SHAC@ group, please see here.
8 December 2020