North Hertfordshire Homes admits failing to warn Letchworth and Royston tenants of massive hikes as £10 service charge jumps to £200

One of the Tomorrow's Garden City blocks in Letchworth's Hartington Place.

One of the Tomorrow's Garden City blocks in Letchworth's Hartington Place. - Credit: Archant

A housing association has admitted failing to inform tenants of enormous maintenance charge hikes, with some now billed £200 a month for a service that used to cost under £10 – and some tenants are refusing to pay until they get an explanation.

Shaun Holdcroft, Executive Director of Customer Experience and Homes at North Hertfordshire Homes.

Shaun Holdcroft, Executive Director of Customer Experience and Homes at North Hertfordshire Homes. - Credit: Archant

The Comet reported last week that North Hertfordshire Homes tenant James Taylor, of Hartington Place in Letchworth, had had his monthly service bill more than trebled – and now others have said similar things.

Ligita Raizyte – of Lannock in Letchworth – said NHH had, among other things, hiked a monthly grounds maintenance charge from under £10 to £200. “It is not the first time they are making massive errors,” she said.

“I have asked them to provide details since May 9 and I am being ignored. Therefore under Section 21 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 I will withhold payment until they provide me with detailed answers.

“In addition, under Section 22 I have requested to see supporting receipts, accounts and so on.”

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Sara Pottinger, who has leased from NHH in Royston for nine years, said she and others had cancelled their direct debits after finding their service charges had quadrupled.

She said: “I called Michael Nahal, head of service charges, for him to tell me this is not a significant jump, all bills increase over time and I should get my own meter!

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“My experience of this accountancy is they haven’t a clue. My information-finding over these nine years showed mess-up after mess-up.”

Another NHH tenant, who did not want to be identified, said the firm had ‘a devil-may-care accounting system’ and had billed him incorrectly for years.

NHH executive director Shaun Holdcroft said the firm had previously absorbed increases in service charges, but could no longer do so.

He said: “After the 2015 budget, we found ourselves with £17 million less income over the next four years so we made the difficult decision to immediately pass on the full service charges to customers who use them.

“Unfortunately, we did not communicate this properly to residents ahead of when they received their bill and we are genuinely sorry for this oversight.

“Where customers have questioned the costs, we have provided a detailed breakdown of the service charges and if they have raised issues with any items, we are investigating their concerns.

“We know that some customers have highlighted flaws in our processes and as a result we are setting up a service charge task force, which will involve customers, to completely review how we raise and communicate service charges in future.

“We would always encourage customers to continue to make payments so that they are not in breach of their own contract because that is their legal document. It would also be in their interest to continue to make payments so that whatever the outcome, they are not left with a bill to pay and less time to pay it.

“We fully understand that some customers are unhappy and we want to work with them to clarify how the payments have come about and discuss an amicable solution.”

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