Around 70 residents have notified their landlord, Clarion, that they will be partially withholding payments in a dispute over rent and service charge levels, plus contested service charge items.
The residents have formed a collective of some 60-strong households covering their estate in Southall, West London.
Shana, a striking resident has explained that the group felt forced to take the action because the increases being applied are both unacceptable and unaffordable. She points out that:
Essential costs such as food, energy, and travel are already rising, but our incomes are not keeping pace.”
Kamal, another resident added that aside from the unaffordability of the rent, there are contentious items in the service charges. One example is the lack of attention given to communal areas and grounds which are not being looked after at all. Nonetheless, maintenance costs for both appear on the service charge list. Kamal concludes that:
We are expected to pay for something but it’s not getting done.”
The group is frustrated that Clarion is dragging its heels rather than addressing the issues they’re attempting to raise.
No Answers, No Transparency
In an attempt to find a resolution, residents contacted their Liaison Officer (RLO) whose role is to look into issues raised by residents. A meeting was scheduled and residents collated a list of issues to be discussed. Two days before the meeting however, Clarion cancelled it claiming they had already responded to all the issues through the proper channels.
Resident Aliya* said
We have had multiple meetings with Clarion over the past year and we have struggled to get an answer to where the money is spent regarding our service charges.
“The lack of transparency raises a lot of questions, especially when we know homes like ours in the same development are paying almost 40% less in service charges than us.”
Shana notes that they haven’t even managed to get to the starting line yet in terms of scrutinising and challenging their service charges as they don’t yet have a detailed breakdown.
According to Trust for London, Ealing has above the London average levels of poverty. Tenants and residents are already juggling tight budgets and cannot afford to pay extortionate amounts for services, or throw money away on services not received.
The group now feels that they are back at square one, and that withholding payment is the only option remaining open to them as a means of putting pressure on Clarion.
The strikers are being supported in their action by SHAC which offers advice and support to those withholding payment as part of a dispute with their housing association landlord. More details are available here.
* Not their real names.
6 September 2023
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