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Leaseholders misled by odd council estate service charges

PUBLISHED: 22:44 28 April 2009 | UPDATED: 14:19 05 October 2010

Dear Ed, IT IS vital leaseholders carefully check how their council charges, especially estate' charges, are being calculated. They should talk with other leaseholders to find out if they are being misled about their liabilities

Dear Ed,

IT IS vital leaseholders carefully check how their council charges, especially estate’ charges, are being calculated. They should talk with other leaseholders to find out if they are being misled about their liabilities.

Our concerns as leaseholders on the Virginia Estate in Bethnal Green for more than 20 years have almost always been Tower Hamlets council’s inability to provide value for money’ service charges to leaseholders.

I have criticized expensive bogus’ surveys during the last year by the council suggesting high levels of “leaseholder satisfaction” and a “majority” consent for setting up an arms-length housing management body (Tower Hamlets Homes).

Now faced with an apparent fait accompli, the current general view seems to be accept the inevitable’ and hope the future works out better for tenants and leaseholders.

But such illusions were shaken by the 2007-08 service bills with demands for increased estate charges.’

We contacted the legal officer of the newly established Tower Hamlets Homes, only to learn the system for calculating charges had changed. Residents had been neither consulted nor told about this.

We spoke to other leaseholders and discovered specific charges for several estate’ items varied greatly. So also did the methods of calculation.

In one case, where charges should have been identical, one leaseholder was charged double. There were examples of double, even treble charging for the same item.

Our discovery of the 2007-08 actuals’ demonstrate these Council figures’ could not have been properly based on actual costs.

We leaseholders have received a raw deal’ for many years. Each year, promises are made, but never honoured.

Hopefully, a positive outcome from the success’ of the campaign to convince the Government that Tower Hamlets residents wanted an arms-length housing management organisation will be that the sought-after funding depends on improved managerial procedures.

It was surely with this in mind that Tower Hamlets Council on October 15 voted to commission an independent audit of leaseholder charges for 2007-08,, which takes place in the next few months.

The independent auditor will not be with us for long and will be monitored by a steering group of councillors from the four political parties, housing management and three leasehold representatives.

This is a one-off opportunity for leaseholders to have their financial interests impartially investigated.

We must not waste this opportunity as there’s no second bite of the cherry.

Dr Bob Potter

Virginia Estate, Swanfield St, Bethnal Green

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