Knebworth mum feels like “hostage” in her own home after flat service charges hike

PUBLISHED: 15:51 10 February 2014 | UPDATED: 15:51 10 February 2014

Haygarth residents

Haygarth residents

Archant

A mother-of-two from Knebworth said she feels like a “hostage” after a housing association more than doubled its service charge for leaseholders.

A tribunal has opened after Hemel Hempstead-based Hightown Praetorian & Churches Housing Association Ltd (HP) increased charges on flats in the Haygarth estate on January 1.

Rate rises differ between blocks, but in the majority of cases it has increased between £50 and £70 per month, making it around £123.

HP is also demanding trust fund contributions from leaseholders to the tune of £3,150 a year for renovation work.

Last year residents paid £250.

Forty two properties are affected.

Leaseholder Charlotte Bright told the Welwyn Hatfield Times she felt trapped like a “hostage” in her own home.

The mum-of-two said: “I am a single mother of two and I have been trying to sell my house.

“I was told if you don’t like it, move.

"I am desperately trying to get out but I am being held hostage by Hightown on the estate."

Haygarth resident Charlotte Bright

“Our properties will be un-sellable, it [the service charge] is another mortgage on top of it.

“I am desperately trying to get out but I am being held hostage by Hightown on the estate.”

A tribunal was held on Monday at Best Western Homestead Court Hotel in Welwyn Garden City, between HP and Haygarth leaseholder Paul Clark to dispute the new charges.

Residents do not agree with having to pay higher rates claiming HP has “mismanaged” the properties and failed to communicate with them.

Mr Clark, a management consultant, said: “We accept the work has to be done, the only issue is the timing and the money is collected in a way which is affordable to people.”

The tribunal has now been adjourned but will continue later in the year after a joint application by the leaseholders of Haygarth has been submitted.

Mr Clark told the Welwyn Hatfield Times afterwards: “I am frustrated. I think all this was avoidable.”

A spokeswoman from Hightown Praetorian & Churches Housing Association Ltd, said: “Hightown is obliged to maintain the estate and the structure of the buildings and recovers the costs through service charges.

“Hightown is seeking a ruling from the tribunal about the reasonableness of the service charge at Haygarth.

“We understand the reasons for the tribunal adjournment but were disappointed that we were not given the chance to present our case on Monday.”


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