Leaseholders in an east London block of flats owned by Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing Association (MTVH) are withholding service charge payments from the start of June. The strike threat alone however has already secured a partial victory.
- Leaseholders and Shared Owners will now receive a refund of the increased service charges that were applied from April. The strike group wants this extended to tenants as well.
- MTVH is now recalculating their service charge bills, acknowledging some inaccuracies. The strike group also wants to see the accounts and invoices.
- Agreement from MTVH senior managers to meet the strike group. A date has been scheduled for mid-June.
The group continue to insist that they have no option but to take a service charge strike to prompt MTVH to address their issues with service charges.
Resident Rob Holden* explains:
“Despite our countless efforts to get some answers and explanations for our most basic rights as tenants and leaseholders, Metropolitan and the management agency has failed to give us a satisfactory answer in the last 10 years. The service charge has reached a ridiculously high amount based on estimations and without any evidence or proper auditing in the last 10 years.”Rob Holden, East Ferry Road resident
At the end of March, MTVH wrote to residents claiming they were reviewing costs across the estate and promising to be in touch, but communication from MTVH has once again fallen silent.
Maria Shaw, another resident in the east London block added:
“We have been asking for the actual invoices since 2012. We are talking about 10 years. MTVH had 10 years to reply yet nothing was done for 10 years even though the landlord have access to the invoices”.Maria Shaw, East Ferry Road resident
One of the contested items is a block charge of £145,787.92 paid to a third party service provider called Homeowner. Residents report that there is no explanation of what this significant charge covers.
Maria describes the charging as “daylight robbery”, adding “this is supposed to be affordable housing. We were promised the charges would always stay affordable but £390 for a month is hardly affordable.” It is a sentiment echoed by increasing numbers of housing association residents.
MTVH has a large estate of properties across London, the South East, East Midlands and East of England. Its services include those provided to vulnerable older people, marginalised, and disabled people. Its main legacy associations were founded in the mid-1900s “with a mission to provide safer and more affordable homes in our inner cities.” A need that is still very much alive today.
The current structure was created in 2018 when Metropolitan merged with Thames Valley Housing to become Metropolitan Thames Valley, creating a landlord with around 57,000 homes.
In 2021, MTVH reported a drop in surpluses as it attempted to address fire safety issues affecting a number of tower blocks. Nonetheless, it continues to enjoy healthy operating surpluses of £31.8 million, albeit reduced from the £37.4 million reported in the previous year.
The landlord boasts of its sector-wide leadership role chairing the ‘G15’ group; an alliance of the largest housing associations based in London, but was also previously threatened with a rent strike from tenants of Trident Point in West London over a failure to carry out adequate repairs.
Tenants and Residents Fight On
SHAC is supporting the East Ferry Road tenants and residents, and others who similarly feel forced into dispute with their housing association landlord just to get a transparent account of their service charges. Landlords should be legally obliged to justify every penny taken from tenants and residents, and SHAC is calling for fundamental reform of the service charge system. To join SHAC and receive details of tenant and resident meetings, please complete our registration form here.
The MTVH East Ferry Road estate follows a service charge strike at PA Housing which began in April and an L&Q estate strike which began in May.
* Rob Holden and Maria Shaw are psuedonyms to protect their identities.
29 May 2022
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