HA Service Charges, Housing Law, Housing protest, MTVHA, Rent Strike, Service charge fraud, Service Cuts, Tenant & Resident Democracy

Some Success as MTVHA Residents’ Strike Grows

The dispute by the Royal Mint Court Residents Association (RMCRA) in east London is now underway after their landlord, Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing Association (MTVHA), failed to fully address their issues.

A small group of RMCRA members notified MTVHA of their intention to strike at the end of 2022 unless a series of concerns over service charges were addressed.

Royal Mint Court

Although not all issues were resolved and the strike went ahead, the strike threat itself has already prompted welcome progress in a dispute that has been grinding on for years.

Lance, a resident from the estate reports that

We successfully reduced the amount that we were being charged because MTVH miscalculated the number of blocks and the frequencies for Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs). It was reduced from £21.000 to £6.000.”

Lance, MTVHA resident

A whistleblower reported to SHAC earlier this year that a landlord was deliberately pressing its managing agents to charge yearly for FRAs even though the checks are only carried out every two years. This suggests that landlords are knowingly overcharging because residents will not be aware of how often the assessments are made. By any definition, a fraudulent practice.

In total, residents have finally been able to force MTVH into admitting to overcharging more than £47,000 across the estate, although the landlord has yet to confirm how this will be refunded.

MTVHA was also forced to refund £75,000 from the estate’s sinking fund saying it was for a job done four years previously. Sinking funds are pots of money that residents pay into as a contingency for major maintenance or repair works. Residents were able to show that the charge was unlawful because the Landlord and Tenant act (1985) limits charges to 18 months retrospectively.

Strikers Determined to Win Justice

The strikers’ early success has encouraged others to join the small group from within RMCRA who began withholding part of their payments in January 2023.

The ongoing issues under dispute include charges for a window replacement project. MTVHA botched its initial consultation and tendering process for window replacement works, which meant that the works were considerably delayed, during which time the price of materials and labour jumped sharply, in some cases by 30%.

A 10% management fee was subsequently applied to the contract worth £1,500,000 without any window work actually starting. MTVHA then sought to charge residents £150,000 for management costs for doing nothing but mismanaging the process.

Painstaking scrutiny of service charge accounts by residents has also uncovered evidence of work being signed off without having been carried out, double charging, and a car park account that has disappeared. MTVHA also miss-counted the number of blocks on the estate meaning that the formula for individual block calculations was based on incorrect data.

SHAC recently analysed a report by the Housing Ombudsman which found that inaccurate data and record-keeping was ‘ubiquitous’ by social landlords when it came to tenant and resident facing services, although tellingly, the same level of errors was not evident in relation to their own corporate accounts.

Lance and other strikers say they are determined not to pay illegitimate charges, and to continue their strike until every issue under dispute has been resolved to their satisfaction.

Rent and Service Charge Strike Supporters Meeting

SHAC has organised a support meeting for anyone who is withholding rent or service charge payments, or thinking about doing so.

This tactic is increasingly being used by SHAC members as a means of forcing landlords to genuinely engage when all other approaches fail. SHAC offers support and advice, helping minimise the risk of retaliatory action by the landlord. So far, no members under the protection of SHAC have experienced legal retaliation, and many have been able to get their landlord round the negotiating table for the first time.

The reasons for withholding vary, and include disputes over service charges, disrepairs, or anti-social behaviour handling. In other cases, it is simply because the amounts have become unaffordable.

The June meeting will hear about the progress in existing disputes, and discuss what support is needed from SHAC. It will also offer attendees the opportunity to link up by region or by landlord to offer strength in numbers and peer support.

  • Rent & Service Charge Striker Support Meeting
  • 6.30pm, Monday 12th June
  • Register here to receive a link.

1 June 2023

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