Hyde Housing association has caved in to a tenant’s demand for a service charge reduction after he informed the landlord he had begun a service charge strike.
This rapid victory comes just a few short weeks after beginning the strike action. This timescale contrasts favourably against many fruitless years previously spent attempting to challenge unfair charges using Hyde’s own complaints procedures.
James Hart reported the win to SHAC after years of battling the landlord, to no avail. The win is only partial, and James has vowed to continue until he is satisfied that Hyde’s service charge demands are legitimate and proportionate.
“Hyde have finally sent us all letters apologising for the ‘miscalculated service charge approximation’, and have graciously lowered the charge. It is still not low enough though, so at least with me, my strike is still standing!”
James Hart, Service Charge Strike Group member
James and his neighbours were previously paying £2,080 per year in charges. Across the 12 flats, this amounted to £24,960 per year. In March, tenants received letters informing them of a 57% increase in their charges, to £39,312 per year across the block. This level of increase was unsustainable for tenants, many of whom had experienced reduced income during lockdown.
The demand led James to begin withholding part of his service charge, and joining the SHAC strike group.
Hart v Hyde
Here is James’s story in his own words.
Like many others on here, mine is not just an individual case but also concerning my neighbours, who are facing the exact same issue.
Hyde housing, a name I’m sure many of you are sick of hearing, house me and my neighbours in a property of around 12 flats. We have had ludicrous (and of course, unexplained) service charge increases.
Currently, we pay around £40 a month in service charge, which while not appalling, is a joke considering we get practically zero service. We’ve been challenging this alone for years, but to no avail.
Once a week, we have cleaners who do the communal hallways. I cannot fault them, they always do a great job and are generally lovely people. However. Hyde are also, as stated in our tenancy agreement, meant to provide us with regular groundskeeping, as well as roof and gutter cleaning. I myself recently had a leak in my kitchen which turned out to be from all the moss that had gathered over who knows how long, pushed into the gutter by the rain. Did Hyde want to know or take responsibility? Of course not.
Hyde’s Nature Reserve
So not only is the roof and guttering never cleaned, but we have literally nothing in the way of groundskeeping. We have foliage such as shrubbery walls and large trees growing, which would look lovely if not for the fact everything is wildly overgrown. We even have one area, with easily the dimensions to fit a house, just full and overgrown with brambles and thicket, that cannot even be touched as according to Hyde, it is a ‘Nature Reserve’. Make of that what you will. The area itself is also generally just filthy from years of neglect by Hyde.
Despite none of this service, Hyde sent us letters at the end of March 2021 stating that the service charge would be rising. Straight away, I got on the phone with Hyde, and had a lengthy conversation, before being told ‘Don’t worry about it, it’s incorrect, just pay what you’ve been paying and you’ll get a new invoice soon.’ I’m not sure how they calculate ‘soon’, as five months has passed with no contact from them.
Soon after, one of my neighbours drew up a letter to send to Hyde stating the service charge was ridiculous and we (as a property) would be fighting it. Surprisingly, there was no answer to that either!
Just Pay Up!
Then in mid June, I got a letter telling me I was nearly £200 in rent arrears. I rang Hyde again to ask what’s going on, as the last time I spoke with them, they told me not to pay as they had made an error. The delightful customer representative (and because text doesn’t come across that way, I am being sarcastic by the way) explained that as per April, we should have been paying the service charge increase.
I said that I had already had the recorded conversation with Hyde telling me otherwise. I also spoke of the letter that had been sent, and of no new invoice. I was told, in a very helpful manner “I don’t care, pay up”.
And so started the fun, with myself and my neighbours trying to contact Hyde, sending complaints, but again, all to no avail. Hyde seem to make it their mission to mislead, ignore and outright threaten their tenants. Having got nowhere, I thankfully found SHAC and have been in communication ever since, where I have found many people facing similar issues.
SHAC Rent and Service Charge Strike Group
The Rent and Service Charge group was set up for those withholding all or part of their rent or service charge payments. It coordinates action across landlords, provides solidarity and peer support to those taking part in the strikes, shares resources such as template letters that strikers can use, and directs a campaign for raising awareness of the action.
If you would like to join, please see here.
2 August 2021
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.