No Shelter from our Landlord

Tenants suffer irregularities in electricity, water and service charges

I have lived in a sheltered housing property belonging to a non profit making Social Landlord for just over four years.

Approximately three years ago I noticed that we were being charged about 8000 more for our communal electricity in our service charges than we expected.

Eventually, at a meeting between our residents and the landlords, the residents were told that the reason why there had been an increase was because the communal electricity meter had not been read for at least six years and all the bills had been estimated. However when the meter was at last read it resulted in a amount of 8000 which had been used but not charged to the residents.

Needless to say the residents were not happy at the negligence of both the electricity company and the landlords for not ensuring the readings had been taken for so many years.

The landlords also expected residents to pay for electricity they had not used because they were not in residence for the whole six years.

Another concern was that the landlords expected the residents to pay for this over just one year when the amount accrued over at least six.

I took the case up with my landlords and was eventually told that the 8000 would be written off.

Shortly after that I received a letter saying that as we had sufficient credit in our service charge account the 8000 would be taken from that.

I was not prepared to accept this because initially the landlords accepted that the debt would be written off.

After some nine months of apparent 'brickwalling' by my landlords I emailed the electricity supplier myself and within 24 hours our property was given a refund of 13,646 because the supplier accepted that the meter had been read incorrectly.

At the end of the next financial year we had over 20,000 in our service charge account.

Last year our landlords attempted to charge the residents twice for the water used in the flats and it took me a long while to convince them that this was the case. Eventually they reluctantly accepted that I was right and amended our water payments accordingly.

Once again this year we are being charged 17,000 for used communal electricity when the actual usage over the last two years has been less than 1000.

We have been told that this is the result of an 'agreement' which has been reached between our landlords and the electricity supplier. When asked, our Housing Manager did not know when this agreement was reached or why there was an agreement.

The first we knew about this was at a meeting between the residents and the landlord. When we received our annual rent and service charge review all it showed in the communal electricity column was 17,000 'used'. There was no explanation in that review nor any letters from the landlord to the residents explaining the reason for the agreement or the phenomenal increase.

Our service charge account this years has gone from 23,000 credit to a 12,000 deficit with no real explanation as to why.

There are quite a few other concerns over the communal service charges again running into well over 1000.

Residents who live in other properties owned by our landlord are also finding anomalies with their water and service charges.

To add insult to injury the Tenant Participation Advisory Service (TPAS) has given our landlords their accreditation. This is despite complaints to TPAS from myself and others regarding the record and way in which the landlords appear to be treating their tenants. Also the lack of any real tenant participation.

Those who live in the sheltered housing complex where I live are either very elderly or have physical disabilities, or both and a lot of us are beginning to think that our landlords think that we are all senile and that whatever they do with regard to service charges etc, we will blindly accept and pay.

John Brooks, Devon.

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