TENANTS FACING MASSIVE RISES IN HOUSING ASSOCIATION CHARGES
New research by Citizens Advice South Hams shows that hard-pressed tenants in social housing are facing huge hikes in charges for communal services across the district, with some rising by up to 600%.
The large rises come while people are also struggling with food inflation and increased fuel and travel costs. One tenant in Dartmouth faced an increase from £15 to £87-a-week while a tenant in Ivybridge has been asked for £67-a-week, up from £38.
Citizens Advice South Hams Chief Executive, Janie Moor, said:
“Many social housing tenants on low incomes are facing a real struggle to cope with these extra demands leading to increased financial and mental stress.
“People are already finding it difficult to keep up with rent and debt payments and at least 13 people have already sought help from Citizens Advice in the South Hams alone to keep on top of the extra demands in the last few months.”
Many tenants have heating costs included in their service charges as their properties are on a communal heating system for the whole block. This means that they cannot choose to switch supplier and can’t control their costs through energy saving measures as the charges are fixed – so they cannot choose to use less energy to cut costs.
Tenants on a communal heating system and paying energy costs through their service charges may not directly receive help through government energy support schemes, so are reliant on any energy support being passed down by the housing association and reflected in their charges.
Ms Moor added: “The government is encouraging social landlords to restrict increases in charges by “reasonable amounts” but that is not what we are seeing in the South Hams.
“We are calling on housing associations in the area to look again at these draconian charges and see what help they can provide to their tenants.”
Case studies identified in the Citizens Advice South Hams report include:
BILL AND MARIE
Bill is retired and lives with his wife, Marie, in a one-bedroom housing association flat. The housing association owns the whole complex of flats. Bill has been told that the heating and hot water is going to increase 18% from £8 per week to £44 per week and the rent will increase 50% from £149 per week to £223 per week. The heating and hot water is on a communal system.
John is also retired and lives in a housing association flat. He pays a set charge for his heating which is on a communal system and says the only way he can control the temperature is by opening windows. He still has to pay the set amount, regardless of wanting to reduce the temperature and use less energy. His service charge has gone up 326% from £10.84 per week to £46.19 per week.
(Names changed to protect client confidentiality).
Tenants have also come to us with the following weekly rises in charges:
Dartmouth – £11 to £58 (500% increase)
Ivybridge – £38 to £64 (70% increase)
Dartmouth – £15 to £87 (600% increase)