Residents of Hyde’s ‘Five Towers’ estate in Gosport celebrated this week after four years of collective challenge resulted in an apology and a refund of more than £106,000 for ‘erroneous’ service charges.
This refund is in addition to £59,000 made to the same group of residents last year, and include a ‘goodwill gesture’ of £35 to each of the 400 plus households as recompense for the four years it has taken for the dispute to be resolved.
The overcharged residents included some whose rents and service charges are paid through the housing benefit element of Universal Credit.
Writing about the long battle between Hyde and the Tenants and Residents Association (TRA), one resident concludes that it “demonstrates that when presented with enough evidence …. and tenacious commitment, things can be put right.”
Members also hope that future service charge bills will be accurate and transparent. They have identified some improvements to the formatting of bills to make them clearer, and to the speed of response when it came to producing invoice packs.
However, their latest service charge demand from Hyde contains some of the same errors and inflated charges that led to the previous refund. While celebrating an impressive win, the TRA is conscious that permanent improvement is needed.
Speaking to SHAC, one local resident Sammy* emphasised that members of the TRA had worked collectively to get the information from Hyde, audit each invoice, compare it to work actually carried out, and challenge inaccuracies through Hyde’s laborious bureaucracy. It was work that required the involvement of many.
“Persistence pays off” advises Sammy. “One needs to pay attention to the fine details of all the charges, challenge them diligently and to not give up.” On a positive note, he believes that for their estate at least, Hyde is starting to understand what has been going wrong and how massive the issues are, but stresses that the residents’ group will not become complacent.
“Hyde have such a long way to go they actually stand little chance of success, as those in charge don’t really understand what needs to be done …
“It’s the same old people doing the same old things, assuming that just talking and creating slides for the Ombudsman and media actually solves problems. There is no disruptive innovation to change the current ‘cash cow’ model that keeps them going with ever-increasing salaries, revolving doors and large cosy framework-style contracts.
SHAC Supports Hyde Tenants and Residents
SHAC@Hyde meets monthly to discuss issues with the landlord and develop campaigns to address them. All meetings are advertised on the Events page. To join the group and receive an invitation, please register with SHAC here.
*Sammy’s real name has been changed to protect their identity.
30 November 2021
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own.