Eastbourne leaseholders' fury as maintenance fees soar

Eastbourne Homes residents have reacted with fury and disbelief at news their maintenance fees are set to increase dramatically.

Thursday, 22nd March 2018, 4:31 pm
Updated Friday, 8th June 2018, 12:19 am
Leaseholders at Berwick Court and other Eastbourne Homes residences after being told their maintenance fees were to increase astronomically (Photo by Jon Rigby)

Leaseholders in properties across Eastbourne say they only learned by letter on Friday (March 16) that their maintenance costs will now include a long term savings ‘reserve fund’ to pay for major works over the next 30 years.

This was intended to make maintenance costs more ‘predictable’ but it means people’s fees have risen astronomically – in some cases by more than 1,000 per cent.

Marcus Urry, of Berwick Court, says his maintenance costs have risen from around £17 a month to £240 – an increase of 1,311 per cent.

(Photo by Jon Rigby)

He said, “It’s hit really hard. There’s a lot of elderly people in our building who are lease holders who I don’t now how they are going to afford it.”

Mr Urry said he and other leaseholders received a letter on Friday (March 16) giving two weeks’ notice to the price rise.

He said, “This is going to affect the resale, we were looking to buy a house – no one’s going to buy a flat with that.

“We are paying for works that may or may not happen in the next 30 years.

Residents at BerwickCourt and other homes after being told their maintenance fees were to increase astronomically (Photo by Jon Rigby) SUS-180322-081957008

“Now I’m trapped in my flat because of the massive overhead they have put on.”

Leaseholders provided information to the Herald of the cost increases for a number of different Eastbourne Homes residences.

On average in 2017/18 total maintenance costs were £546 a year. With this new reserve fund, residents will on average be paying £2,047 a year – almost four times more.

Emma Osborne, of Rockhurst Drive, says she used to pay £125 a year towards the Major Works Reserve Fund, but now is facing a £1,760 cost.

She said, “It was a shock, I think what’s more upsetting is that this has been brought in through the back door.

“There’s very mixed messages here, they whipped this in through the back door in a very distressing manner and given us two weeks to find huge amounts of extra money, it’s totally unreasonable.”

Ms Osborne said leaseholders like her are being asked to pay upfront for works over the next 30 years buit ‘we have no proof whatsoever they’ll carry out these works or that they’re actually needed’.

She said, “We’re being well and truly milked as cash cows to give their funds a quick cash injection. It’s pretty frightening stuff.”

Meanwhile Jo Lovatt, a bookmaker who has lived in Brockhurst Drive for 12 years, said when she first received the letter she thought ‘what the hell?’

She said, “I believe they were previously basing it on average of what has been spent and they have changed that to what they expect to be spent.

“If that’s a 30 year expectation, they are expending to spend £200,000 in that next 30 years.

“What are they going to do for that? You could knock the thing down and build it from scratch.

“Fortunately I have savings but I don’t see why anybody should pay for work 30 years in advance, nobody’s going to be here that long.

“It fair enough to have reserve, but 30 years is absolutely ridiculous.

“It’s almost as though they want to force us out or something.

“One poor devil has already had massive bills in recent years and now has to pay for further ones as well. They just want it both ways.

“I have been here 12 years, no major works have been carried out in that time other than water works. They haven’t even painted the front door.

“The yard and car park are a permanent mess there’s supposed to be someone to clear it but it rarely gets done.

“We had one letter a few weeks before but there was no mention of figures in there, no clue whatsoever about how drastic the increase was going to be.”

Ms Lovatt added that anyone affected by this should “get onto Eastbourne Homes and tell them the increases aren’t acceptable. There’s no point just complaining – they need to make their voices heard.”

And Mimi Pastel says her bill has risen by 1293 per cent: from £206.88 a year to £2,883.46.

She said, “The same goes for my elderly neighbour who will be left with £100 of his pension per month with these changes.”

A spokesperson for Eastbourne Homes Limited (EHL) said the new fund is aimed at making maintenance costs more regular and predictable amounts.

They said, “Like all homeowners, leaseholders are responsible for paying towards the cost of maintaining their homes.

“From 1 April, Eastbourne Homes Limited (EHL) will start using a new approach to helping its leaseholders budget for repairs and maintenance to their homes.

“The new fund we’ve put in place is a long-term savings account that homeowners contribute to every month. This builds up every year and should pay for major works to the property, such as replacing a roof.

“Previously, leaseholders have received bills after major work to their property was completed, which were unpredictable and in many cases of a significant cost.

“In future funds will be collected in regular, predictable amounts ahead of when the work is needed and according to a clear schedule of repairs and maintenance. This means leaseholders can budget properly for works rather than being charged in one large lump sum. The funds are held in trust for each block and will accrue interest for the leaseholder.

“We appreciate that this will mean an increase in the amount leaseholders will be asked to pay up front to ensure the quality and value of their property is maintained.

“However, there is no increase to the cost of the work or the amount leaseholders will pay, the funds are simply collected in a new, more planned and certain way.

“We understand that in some cases this change will result in a significant increase because of high value work that is needed within the next few years. We can reassure these leaseholders that their monthly payments will decrease once this essential high value work is complete.

“EHL is offering support to those leaseholders who feel the new charging method is unaffordable, including offering flexible options for payment.”

• For more information click here or anyone who wishes speak to speak to someone about their individual circumstances can call Customer First on 01323 410000.

• Meanwhile the leaseholders have set up a group on Facebook called EHL Leaseholders and encourage anyone affected to join.

• A meeting has also been set up at Langney Village Hall at 7pm on April 4 for leaseholders to discuss this

• If you have been affected you can also get in touch with this newspaper by emailing [email protected]