More than 100 Eastbourne families are continuing their fight for a fairer deal after they were hit by a dramatic maintenance fee rise.
Around 660 Eastbourne Homes leaseholders have been affected by the new rules put in force in March – with some people’s fees rocketing by more than 1,000 per cent.
This comes after residents were told their maintenance costs will now include a long term savings ‘block reserve fund’ to pay for major works over the next 30 years. They have since set up a campaign to seek answers from Eastbourne Homes Limited (EHL).
Graham Dale, chairman of the EHL Leaseholders group, said, “The worry and stress is enormous for people. They are being told to pay more than £3,000 a year and a lot of them don’t even have that as an income.
“Every single person is disgruntled.”
In a letter to EHL, signed by 73 leaseholders, the residents listed their grievances with the company. They said there were no figures provided to support the 30-year forecasts – making them just ‘guesstimates’.
And they called for ‘open book accounting’ so they can know where their money is going.
They say they have not received a response.
Graham said, “This is people’s hard-earned cash. We need fair and transparent accounting so we can see where the money’s being spent. We want a say in who carries out the work.
“There’s got to be a solution. I think they were hoping we were going to go away. But we are actually growing in numbers.”
Meanwhile residents of Riverbourne House, in Belmore Road, say they have received a 1653 per cent increase in their fees – a rise they say could bankrupt some occupants.
They say the reasonableness of this must be questioned as landlords have a duty to ensure: costs used are reasonable, items are not replaced earlier than necessary, and estimated prices are not unnecessarily inflated.
They say none of this appears to have been considered properly.
In a letter seen by this newspaper, residents said, “Whilst it is accepted that the previous £120 per year was too low, leaseholders were only expecting an increase of around 300-400 per cent and certainly not the massive 1653 per cent increase posed.
“A reasonable increase, therefore, should only be considered but if insufficient funds are accrued at the time of any necessary major works, then residents will continue to pay any outstanding sum at that time.
“This would seem to be a practical solution and stop leaseholders from being bankrupted by this very unreasonable increase in costs.”
One resident, who did not wish to be named, said there was an ‘element of ageism’ as a large number of leaseholders are in a senior age group.
He said, “Worry and anxiety about the scheme has noticeably affected the health and wellbeing of leaseholders and shared owners.
“This has become an increased burden for those already trying to cope with the problems of mobility and their personal care needs.”
He added that the scheme has caused many to spend their savings and money that would have gone to descendents in their wills.
A spokesperson from Eastbourne Homes said, “As with all homeowners, leaseholders are responsible for paying towards the cost of maintaining their homes.
“We understand that paying for repairs can be difficult and we want leaseholders to know what they are paying for, be able to plan for the cost and that they are getting good value.
“We have been working to improve the way we manage this and have been engaging with leaseholder throughout this process.
“We organised a special drop-in session for leaseholders on April 18, we continue to support our Leaseholder Panel that meets regularly and is facilitated by a member of the Eastbourne Homes Ltd (EHL) team, we have written a number of times to leaseholders on this subject and senior EHL officers will be meeting leaseholder representatives on Friday (May 25).
“From the beginning of April, EHL introduced block reserve funds which leaseholders can use like a long term savings account to budget for and pay for future major repairs. This builds up every year and should pay for future major works to the property, such as replacing a roof.
“Following concerns from homeowners, we made modifications that allow more flexibility in the way their reserve funds can operate and how contributions for major repairs are made.
“Leaseholders who have difficulty paying towards the maintenance of their home now have the option of paying over a longer payment period or by running their account in arrears.
“Obviously, when an invoice for major repairs is received or their property is sold, they must clear any arrears.
“It’s important to remember that whatever way leaseholders make arrangements to budget for repairs, they only ever pay for what is actually spent on their properties.”
To read more on this issue, click here.
And to find out more about the group, search EHL Leaseholders on Facebook.