Residents overcharged for flats maintenance

Residents of St Brelades  in Trinity Place who are  in dispute with their landlord
Residents of St Brelades in Trinity Place who are in dispute with their landlord

A COMPANY has overcharged a group of Eastbourne residents almost £50,000 in maintenance charges for a small block of flats, a tribunal found.

Freshwater Properties Management provide maintenance for 21 flats, owned almost entirely by older people, at St Brelades in Trinity.

In September 2011, City & County Properties Limited, a subsidiary of Freshwater, started legal proceedings against the owner of one of the flats because he refused to pay his maintenance bill.

Steve Lake stopped paying the bills in 2009 because he said Freshwater refused to deal with gutter which was spilling water into his flat.

He also said the work they had carried out in the building was not up to scratch and the charges were excessive.

Mr Lake, a 44-year-old personal trainer, said, “I just thought I was being massively over-charged for pretty poor work.

“A gutter on the roof above my room leaks into my room but despite assurances nothing was done.

“And I think for the money they charge they could do a lot more.

“I know other residents aren’t happy but I’m the youngest person in the block and the other residents don’t want the hassle, so they just pay the bills.”

Eighty nine-year-old Dennis Southon lives with 90-year-old Iris Hughes in St Brelades and they currently pay annual maintenance charges of £2,150.

Dennis said, “You never question it, and we just pay the bill for a bit of peace of quiet.

“But the standard of the work is poor and it’s definitely too expensive.”

Another elderly resident, who didn’t wish to be named, also said the maintenance bills were “very expensive”.

On March 7, following a six-month case, Eastbourne County Court ruled the company charged residents £49,139.84p too much over the past three years.

Experts from the tribunal carried out inspections of the inside and outside of the building,

Outside they found a number of patches of mould on the walls and vegetation growing in the gutter.

In the hall of the building were cobwebs and a piece of polystyrene held in place by wire “apparently to cover a hole”.

Inspections of the outside of Mr Lake’s flat showed that “some work” had been carried out but a substantial amount had not been carried out to a “reasonable standard”.

The inspectors also noted an “unreasonable standard” of work on windows, gutters and render of the flat.

The Herald contacted Freshwater for a response to the criticisms and to comment on the tribunal’s findings.

Steve Adams from Freshwater said the company had not received the tribunal’s findings and could not comment at this stage.

Mr Lake said he and other residents at St Brelades were considering bringing a prosecution against Freshwater to recoup the excess charges.