Members of the Rent & Service Charge Strike Group explain why they are withholding payments.
- One Housing – Mia’s Story
- Clarion Housing – Wendy’s Story
- Sanctuary Housing – Tina’s Story
- Onward Housing – Mal’s Story
- Hyde Housing – Jay’s Story
We have spent years trying to get One Housing Group (OHG) to make improvements on our estate. It is in a terrible state of disrepair. The thing is, there is no need for it to be like this. We have funds set aside (a ‘Sinking Fund’ which we all pay into) which has reached £165,000. This was meant for major repairs and would easily cover the work needed.
Some of the things that are needed would make a huge difference to creating a safer and more secure environment for residents, and are really simple. An improved gate system for the underground car park, instead of the current gate which breaks regularly. The area is dirty and poorly lit. Rubbish filters into the car park and isn’t cleaned for months on end. We don’t feel safe going down there, especially women alone, and bikes are regularly stolen.
Similarly, our communal doorway entry system, intercoms and lighting throughout the estate. If they replaced the lights throughout with energy efficient bulbs, it would be more environmentally friendly and cost less.
I have lived on this estate since 2012. None of these issues have been addressed. We contribute about £21,000 every year to this sinking fund, which is sitting in a high interest account. The work it is supposed to fund just isn’t getting done.
Communicating with Clarion Housing feels like being stuck in a hamster wheel of discontent. Clarion’s customer services and complaints procedure are ineffective and not fit for purpose. I have even tried writing Trustpilot reviews to get a response about a particular issue.
At the resident online event ‘More Than You Think’ Clarion’s undemocratic approach and propaganda and is far from reflective of the day to day reality of resident’s experiences. Considering the Chief Executive is on 400K salary plus bonuses and other benefits, it is nothing short of a scandal and Clarion ought to be held accountable.
The reason why I have decided to withhold part of my rent relates to Clarion’s dysfunctional communication system which fails in providing genuine resident engagement and their ineffective management of anti-social behaviour and inability to make essential improvements on my estate within a reasonable time.
One specific issue which I have been trying to resolve with Clarion for several years involves open access to the public onto my estate. This results in anti-social behaviour such as fly-tipping, defecating, loitering, illegal parking and drug dealing. Clarion’s continuous response is to suggest calling the police, the police say it’s the landlord’s responsibility as part of their estate management.
Over the years, I have logged the issues with customer services, Clarion complaints procedure, communicated and met with housing officers and spoken to the anti-social behaviour team. Clarion have failed to engage effectively with residents and to take their responsibility seriously in solving these issues, the problems persist and have worsened over time.
It’s high time Clarion started doing ‘more than you think’ by properly engaging with residents and successfully maintaining its properties.
My complaint about Sanctuary is one of harassment.
My story is shocking. It’s about living in a dangerous building. It’s about harassment. We’ve had gas leaks which have been covered up by Onward. We’ve had dangerous electrics. It goes on and on.
We can’t install a cooker and have had heating problems for years. Last year I was left with no heating. It was snowing and the windows wouldn’t close either.
We’ve got staff telling us that the gas is unsafe but nobody will put it in writing. I believe Onward’s higher management are dangerous. They are absolute bullies who hide behind customer services. It is making me ill. Onward ignore everything. They couldn’t care less.
I just want a safe and decent property to live in without feeling that they are trying to force me out.
My story is that in 2017 my service charge actual increased by 75% without any warning or explanation. Some neighbours and myself entered into a long discussion with Hyde to try and find out how they could justify the increase when the services provided had remained the same, and in some cases deteriorated.
We were constantly fobbed off and Hyde did not follow the correct procedure for complaints. We investigated ourselves, going over the invoice pack which we were eventually given. It was very difficult to understand and obscure, but we uncovered duplicate invoices as well as charges for things that do not exist. For example, there were communal furnishings in the sinking fund when we do not have any, and legionella testing of a watertank on our roof which does not exist. Hyde only agreed to the remove the cost for the latter when my neighbour asked for evidence of the certificate for the testing that Hyde were charging us for. They then admitted that the tank did not exist.
I made a Ssection 21 request many many times, and Hyde only carried it out when I handed duplicates of the letters that I had sent to them in person at a meeting organised by our local MP. They then carried out the Section 21 request for an independent accountant to audit our service charge figures, but they only gave 50% of the invoices to the accountant, so was not an accurate audit. The accountant found discrepancies and in their summing up said that they felt they would have discovered more issues and overcharging if they had been given access to 100% of the invoices.
Our service charge costs vary wildly year on year, as well as having huge differences between the estimate and the actual. For example in 2016 our controlled door entry costs were £243, but the following year had jumped to £1,600 with no explanation and with no change to the system for controlled door entry.
After a meeting with Hyde and our local MP promises were made regarding communication of hikes in service charges, but nothing changed. In 2019 the estimate for controlled door entry was £290 but the actual cost was £1,300. I have asked for clarification and received no adequate explanation.
In 2017/18 we were being charged for ongoing maintenance tests of the automatic opening vents of fire safety equipment despite the fact that the system was broken and not functioning. It had been frequently reported by myself and my neighbours numerous times, and reported to Hyde by the London Fire Brigade. Hyde did not repair the system for more than a year, but continued to charge us for routine maintenance testing throughout this period.
In 2017 I started to withold the unreasonable increase in service charges and have had a series of ongoing complaints with Hyde since then. Hyde threatened me with eviction three times and I have asked them to take me to court, but they have refused to do so. I think it’s because they know that that would mean an investigation, and I am sure that they are aware that the mistakes, the hikes in service charge costs and their lack of transparency and accountability are unreasonable.
This year the estimate for service charges to my property, and therefore the amount that I’m being charged, has decreased, but I am well aware that this is just an estimate, and when the actuals come through in September the costs are likely to be wildly exaggerated and go through the roof.
This is just a small example of the problems I have been experiencing with Hyde’s maladministration of the service charges for my property.