A group of homeowners in east London is taking legal action against Europe’s largest housing association after receiving a £2 million bill for repairs.
Residents of Bow’s Ranwell West estate were stunned when Clarion Housing Group presented them with bills of up to £32,000 each, after they had already paid more than £3,000 a year for service and maintenance.
Clarion has also told them it will take a percentage of their property if they fail to pay. Several homeowners have had to sell their flats to pay the charges.
Residents claim the firm allowed the estate to fall into disrepair before any work was done, with councillors raising the issue of maintenance more than a decade ago.
However, homeowners were handed a legal notice by Clarion, ordering them to pay for the repairs which include mechanical and electrical work, fixing the roof and floors, and redecoration of communal areas and pipes.
The first bill came in 2016 and work started in 2017. The second bill was delivered in 2017.
Residents argue that the work would not have been so expensive had appropriate maintenance been done earlier. They are concerned they may face more bills in the future, and 18 residents have engaged legal firm Hodge Jones & Allen to fight the charges.
Richard Manning, 40, a health and safety officer who lives on the estate, said: “The way we have been treated is appalling, immoral. The building has been under-maintained … it appears the bills we are faced with are to make good on things that should have been fixed years ago under general maintenance. People are being forced to hand over between six and 10 per cent of their homes to make up for failures in housing association management, as they are unable to pay or challenge the bills.”
Mother-of-one Shilpi Purkayastha, 39, said: “When you see the state of the building, the money we are being charged is ridiculous … the kind of service charges you’d expect in Chelsea. We don’t know what we are paying for.”
A Clarion spokeswoman said such works were not just general maintenance, but necessary improvements that “in the life-cycle of a building”, and leaseholders should bear in mind these costs when buying this type of property.
She said Clarion seeks to “maintain our existing housing stock to a good standard”.
The Government has faced calls to act on the problem of owners of ex-local authority homes facing bills for refurbishments.
A report published last month by the Commons housing committee called for wide-ranging reforms to the leasehold system.