Almost 30 households from an estate in the London Borough of Newham have begun a partial service charge strike, and are withholding payment of retrospective charges.
The strike is in protest at the actions of their landlord One Housing Group, and managing agents Haus Block Management.
Simon*, who lives on the estate explained that the service charges for all leaseholders were already substantially higher against comparable buildings in the area, and says:
We have now seen a staggering rise in the 2023 charges making them simply unaffordable for leaseholders. We are now at a tipping point. The financial burden it places on residents and the subsequent impacts of this are intolerable.
“Hard working families are denying their children the things others have in order to pay the bills. Workers already pushed to the limits are trying to see what else they can do to earn money to pay bills, and we are all making cuts that affect our quality of life.”Simon, One Housing Resident
Residents already felt trapped by unsafe cladding which has yet to be removed from buildings on the estate. However, once this is remedied, residents are concerned that they will still be unable to sell due to the high service charge levels, which are nearly double the London average.
Simon, One Housing Resident
The situation is draining savings, and leading to the real possibility of bankruptcy for many.”
The situation affects leaseholders and renters on the estate. Many tenants in the building have been told of staggering rent rises,
The graph produced by residents shows constantly rising increase in service charges for a two-bedroomed flat on the estate.
A decrease in the level of service delivery does not appear to flow through to a decrease in service charges. Residents cite reduced window cleaning and concierge staffing among other examples.
The flats on the estate have very limited facilities and services. There is no pool, gym or leisure facilities that would justify proportionately higher charges. Even their podium garden has been sealed off and left inaccessible for more than a year.
Residents also have to contend with pigeon and seagull excrement on the main walkways, and torn carpets in communal areas, all of which create hazards for anyone using the building.
One Housing Group recently became a subsidiary of Riverside ahead of a full merger
The cost of insurance has risen sharply, but the rise has not been supported by evidence to show that a proper tendering process to procure the best value for money has been followed.
A further factor potentially raising service charges has been energy prices which the managing agents, Haus, predicted would rise more sharply than they have. Plus, say the strikers, the heating system in the blocks is old and inefficient, which drives up energy consumption and costs.
Luisa*, another resident of the estate said that the group has taken the action of withholding payment only as a last resort after years of failing to get their issues addressed through the normal routes.
We are exhausted from continually chasing invoices and highlighting that we cannot afford to pay them. We are tired of complaining about the poor service and building maintenance.
“Neither One Housing nor Haus are listening to us, and are actually ignoring what are technically legal requests for further information. We have not seen any evidence that either One Housing or Haus are working in our interests or to keep our costs down.Luisa, One Housing Resident
These failures are especially difficult to comprehend says Luisa when you consider that One Housing is actually a registered charity that receives large amounts of government funding and money for rents and service charges through the benefits system.
Service Charge Strike Wave
The actions of the One Housing Group and Haus strikers follows similar moves by tenants and residents of other housing associations who have taken strike action with the support of SHAC.
SHAC is running a Service Charge Campaign which supports tenants and residents challenging inaccurate or unreasonable bills. SHAC has also teamed up with FindOthers to #EndServiceChargeAbuse. The specialist platform includes a unique online tool to request and chase service charge packs.
- Not their real names.
11 April 2023
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