Ashley Court residents furious after burglary and service charges bill despite building remaining empty

A fire broke out at Ashley Court in Hatfield. Picture: Alan Davies

A fire broke out in Ashley Court, Hatfield in December 2020. Residents are still living elsewhere. - Credit: Archant

Residents of a Hatfield housing block relocated into temporary accommodation after a fire are still paying monthly service charges, it has been revealed.

After an electrical fire damaged Ashley Court on December 15 2020, homeowners, many of whom are older and require additional care, have since been living in temporary accommodation for the last ten months.

Even though the housing block is vacant, residents have still been required to pay monthly service charges to Sanctuary Housing, Ashley Court's housing association.

One occupant said they were paying £225 per month. Residents still don't know what caused the fire. 

Hatfield East councillor Peter Hebden told the Welwyn Hatfield Times he finds Sanctuary Housing's stance "totally unreasonable".

Cllr Hebden has asked them to "withdraw their demands for service and maintenance charges, apologise and to make refunds to residents where appropriate".

To make matters worse, this October Ashley Court was broken into and thieves entered B-14 flats.

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Terence Bell, 86, who owns a flat in the housing block, is now living in St Audrey's Care Home. But his mother's wedding ring, his grandmother's wedding ring and his father's pocket watch were all stolen in the raid.

Because Terry's flat was only secured with a padlock on his front door, he is unable to claim on insurance. But it's the sentimental value of the items that saddens him the most.

"He's really upset. Not just upset but angry too. He just wants to be at his home," Terry's great-niece Emma Adkins said. Emma has found Sanctuary Housing's communication "sporadic" and said she has only received three emails from them in the last year. 

Carole Youngs' mother owns a flat in Ashley Court too. She explained: "We were told that there would be 24-hour security to the building as it was completely empty and our possessions were still in the building."

In a letter seen by the Welwyn Hatfield Times, Sanctuary Housing sent residents a message on January 29 saying that due to damp, homeowners are encouraged to arrange for the contents of their homes to be removed. 

The letter added that on-site security was in place for three weeks following the fire because the main entrance door wasn't secure but as the doors had now been secured, extra security is "no longer required". Fencing has remained around the block. 

Sanctuary Housing said that the contractor, City Gate Construction, is responsible for site security. 

They added: "Fire officers concluded the fire was electrical and started where the main supply entered the building in the scheme manager’s office.

"The fire caused severe damage to the building but, despite the complexity of the rebuild, work has progressed well. We regularly update residents and will get them back into their homes as soon as possible.

“Following the break-in earlier this month our contractors have enhanced their site security.

“Our service charges are reconciled at the end of each year; residents will only pay for services we provide. In the meantime, any costs related to residents’ alternative accommodation are covered by our insurance.”