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We live in a flat and with Clarion Housing who are a housing association. 

 

Today we all got a summary of what the service charges estimates were, and what they actually were. The estimates were £412 less than the actual costs. The three main increases were:

 

  • Communal Electricity - Estimated £45.00, Actual £241.73
  • Communal Water - Estimated £3.66, Actual £234.91
  • Fire Protection - Estimated £2.08, Actual £147.65

 

We have no idea what the electricity cost is for. Someone could have been stealing power for all we know.

 

The water, I recall a water leak (last year / early this year) in the "Energy Centre" which is a big boiler than pumps hot water around to all the properties in the estate and heat exchange units transfer it to our hot water and heating. This means the leak must have cost at least £100,000 overall in lost water which doesn't add up at all. 

 

Fire protection was some work that was carried out when they realised that there wasn't enough fire protection in the buildings. They had to remove cladding and fit fire proof cladding, they put fire brakes above fire doors etc. 

 

Does this seem fair that we're having to pay for these? What can we do? 

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Hi

 

Could you clarify if your are a Tenant, Home or Shared Owner, Leaseholder please?

(I suspect from your post either Home or Shared Owner, leaseholder being factored by the housing association but require the above clarification)

 

Is your Flat in a Multi Storey?

 

The Communal Electricity Charge will be for all the Communal Lighting inside and outside the building

 

The Fire Protection may have came about due to the Grenfell Tragedy in London where all housing association etc. had to reinspect there buildings/cladding to ensure it was in compliance with regulations.

 

The Communal Water charge will be for the usage of water probably for cleaning the building internal and external.

 

these estimates from the figures you have posted from the estimate to the actual charge is a massive increase except the Fire Protection as they would have had to do this due to Grenfell and Government Guidance.

 

I would write to them asking for clarification and a full breakdown of each service charge as the estimate that was given for the year and the actual final figure are a massive increase to the estimate and you also require the following;

 

Copy of Customer Charter Policy not the leaflet

Copy of Rent and Service Charge Policy not the leaflet.

Copy of Repairs and Maintenance Policy not the leaflet

 

As well as sending the letter you can also complete their form online (I would recommend doing both in writing and this form if relevant):

https://www.myclarionhousing.com/your-home/rent-and-service-charges/service-charges/

 

 

 

 

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Thanks Stu.

 

I'm a housing association tenant. We pay rent. I live in a block of 11 other flats, the estate has multiple blocks, something like 300 - 600 properties in total. 

 

Shouldn't fire protection have been put in place in the beginning, or only where we can prove it wasn't up to regulations before we moved in? They had to fireproof around all fire doors, pump in fire proofing into the brickworks and cladding, and also added fireproofing around electrical cupboards. Surely this should have been done in the first place?

 

The water charge turned out to be to do with a fault on the communal boiler, managed by SSE. Lots of people received compensation for this. but we are all being charged £200 to £300 for this, which means around £75,000 to £100,000 repair costs which makes no sense. I am also told there is a fund to cover repair costs to this that we're already paying for, but I don't have any information on this. 

 

I emailed them to two of their customer care email addresses, usually would get some sort of confirmation, but nothing this time. I'll draft up a letter and post it.

 

Thanks,

 

Joe

 

Edit: One of many news articles about this estate: https://www.romfordrecorder.co.uk/news/it-s-very-scary-says-orchard-village-rainham-resident-as-wooden-slats-revealed-behind-metal-cladding-1-5078277

 

 

Edited by JoeyJoeC
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Hi

 

Fire Protection isn't just for cladding fire proofing doors etc it also includes Annual Fire Inspections which all add to costs.

 

Water Charge for the communal boiler fault managed by SSE It would depend how your housing association has setup the contract with SSE. (sounds as if you have a Combined Heat and Power system (CHP)) if this is the case my own Housing Association also has this its the largest CHP in the UK still and it is run and managed by SSE right down to they repair faults at their cost not the tenants its how the contract was setup). As said it would depend on how your HA setup the contract with SSE.

 

If it is a CHP system and the fault as you have describe these are not cheap to repair/get a replacement parts. (my own HA CHP covers thousands of properties and has three boilers two are constantly used the third is and emergency backup/used if maintenance on others required.)

 

If all tenants are being charged this £200-£300 have the HA added this as a Service Charge as part of your Rent Statement?

 

I am a HA Tenant and if I had this as a HA Tenant myself I certainly would be challenging it with the HA as such costs should have been budgeted for in the HA Budget Plan.

 

Do you have a Tenants Committee/Registered Tenants Organisation (RTO) if so as well as complaint to the HA I would also inform them of this

 

With your letter Make sure and Title it 'Formal Complaint' this way they have to log it as a complaint which in turn in turn must be added to the HA return to the Regulator.

 

Only if you consider getting together with other tenants as a Group to complain about this the best advice I will give you is always complain individual as well as a Group. (note: why you ask well individually as stated they have to log all those complaints but as a Group its only one complaint logged the Group one)

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  • 1 month later...

Hi,

 

All the tenant's I've spoken to have this charge added. I eventually got an email back from the "Service Charge & Section 20 Officer" for Clarion with the below:

 

Quote

Thank you for your email queries, in relation to the 2019-2020 actual service charges.

 

Please be advised that I am investigating the communal and water charges. Once my investigation is completed, I would send you a revised service charges letter.

 

Thanks for your patience whilst I am investigating.

 

This was almost a month ago now. It's been well over a month since I requested to see a copy of the invoices. I've emailed him back twice and called twice but I don't hear back from him, or anyone else at Clarion.

 

There's a bunch of us that are complaining about charges. Some people in other blocks are getting charged for use of the secure car parks, that they don't actually have access to etc. It's a mess. 

 

I will write a complaint letter now as an individual. 

 

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i'm wondering what an sar from every resident might throw up here.

 

they are hiding something.....

please don't hit Quote...just type we know what we said earlier..

DCA's view debtors as suckers, marks and mugs

NO DCA has ANY legal powers whatsoever on ANY debt no matter what it's Type

and they

are NOT and can NEVER  be BAILIFFS. even if a debt has been to court..

If everyone stopped blindly paying DCA's Tomorrow, their industry would collapse overnight... 

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Housing associations  don't normally provide copies of invoices, but they should supply a copy of the accounts for the block of flats.  The accounts should show a list of all of the service charges, with estimated and actual amounts showing.  Some show the previous year and the current year, so tenants can see where costs have increased or reduced.  

 

So ask for the accounts of the service charges for the block of flats.

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  • 2 weeks later...

They send a summary every year with the previous year, estimates and actual costs. I used this to work out the increases in the first post.

 

The issue is, they don't break down the charges enough, so we have no idea why "Communal Water" went from an estimate of £3.66 to £234.91. 

 

They're telling me that they're waiting for clarification on the service charges before they can tell me anything. 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

A somewhat good result. After more chasing, they've sent me a spreadsheet of the accounts for fire protection, water charges and electric. 

  • Communal Electricity - Estimated £45.00, Actual £241.73 - Revised: £41.63
  • Communal Water - Estimated £3.66, Actual £234.91 - Revised: £76.96
  • Fire Protection - Estimated £2.08, Actual £147.65 - Revised: £51.15

Still it seems too high, the total for this estate alone for water charges came to £62,950.07 last year. The thing is, they've listed blocks that don't seem to exist on our estate. Possibly from the new development that has only just been built on the estate, which was finished in the summer this year. 

 

 

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  • 3 months later...

open

please don't hit Quote...just type we know what we said earlier..

DCA's view debtors as suckers, marks and mugs

NO DCA has ANY legal powers whatsoever on ANY debt no matter what it's Type

and they

are NOT and can NEVER  be BAILIFFS. even if a debt has been to court..

If everyone stopped blindly paying DCA's Tomorrow, their industry would collapse overnight... 

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We've had the "Your new rent and service charges" (from 5th April 2021) letter, and it appears that they're basing our new charges on the original 'Actual Charges 2019/20 letter', and not the 'Revised Actual Charges 2019/20' letter. 

 

Communal Electricity
2019/20 Actual charges showed actual costs were £241.73
2019/20 Revised Actual charges showed actual costs were £51.15
New charges we will be paying says £4.90 per week / £254.80 for the year

The electricity charges appear to be reasonable (on the revised actual costs letter), they're around the same as previous years, albeit slightly higher year on year. 

 

Communal Water
2019/20 Actual charges showed actual costs were £234.91
2019/20 Revised Actual charges showed actual costs were £76.96
New charges we will be paying says £4.62 per week / £240.24 for the year

This still doesn't make any sense to us, the water charges for 30 blocks combined (I will take a walk around the estate soon as I don't recognise half of the blocks) was £62,950.18 across two invoices. They completely ignore any requests to know what this is actually for. In previous year's, we've always been charged less than £10 for the entire year. 
 

Fire Protection
2019/20 Actual charges showed actual costs were £147.65
2019/20 Revised Actual charges showed actual costs were £41.63
New charges we will be paying says £2.90 per week / £150.80 for the year

I went through 6 years of service charge letters and it looks like they've not been doing any of the servicing of the Fire Protection equipment until post Grenfell, which is why the costs were suddenly high.

 

 

I now plan to write a formal complaint letter raising these points, along with a few other queries, and quoting the Landlord and Tenants Act 1985 (Section 22(2)) that states: "The tenant, or the secretary with the consent of the tenant, may within six months of obtaining the summary require the landlord in writing to afford him reasonable facilities— (a)for inspecting the accounts, receipts and other documents supporting the summary, and (b)for taking copies or extracts from them". 

 

 

 

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  • 2 weeks later...

Got a call from Clarion just now, from the person in charge of the service charges who said they put down the charges as weekly, when they should have been for the whole year, which explains why some of the charges are now 50 times more expensive than last year. I don't have much faith in this person, as he admitted he thought something was wrong but couldn't work it out until he saw my email. 

 

I pressed him to find out if this is affecting all the flats on the estate, he said he doesn't know, but is going through every service charge correcting them and everyone will yet again get a letter.

 

I of course asked for all this to be in writing which he said he will do. 

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:pound:you couldn't make this up even if you wanted too..

please don't hit Quote...just type we know what we said earlier..

DCA's view debtors as suckers, marks and mugs

NO DCA has ANY legal powers whatsoever on ANY debt no matter what it's Type

and they

are NOT and can NEVER  be BAILIFFS. even if a debt has been to court..

If everyone stopped blindly paying DCA's Tomorrow, their industry would collapse overnight... 

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This appears to be affecting everyone on the estate. 550+ homes. 

 

£633 per household, ~£350,000 in total they nearly over charged for this. Shocking - at least it would be to me if I hadn't seen the BBC Panorama episode which was almost completely based around Clarion and their service charges. 

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This lot are a complete joke and as for the person dealing with the service charges who doesn't even know how its happened is shocking and shows the incompetance of the Housing Association Financial Department but then again these charges have to go before that Board to be approved so that Board is not doing it's Due Diligence.

 

Again Make this a Formal Complaint to the Housing Association and title the letter as such.

 

You require full clarification as to these high costs for Service Charges which you have previously raised and they were reduced to know be back a short time later to the same over the same level as my previous complaint about these charges.

 

To date I have not been given a coherent response to these charges from your Housing Association and now request the following:

 

Communal Electricity

 Clarification on exactly what communal electricity refers to and usage in my Building and the Meter Readings for those costs and your Energy Provider.

 

Communal Water

Clarification on exactly what the communal water refers to and usage in my Building and the Meter Reading for those costs and your Water Provider.

 

Fire Protection

Clarification on exactly what the fire protection refers to and the company you are using for the Fire Protection.

 

I also require the following:

 

Copy of the Board Minutes that approved these new Service Charges. (these can easily be redacted before issuing a copy)

Copy of your Rent and Service Charge Policy (not the leaflet)

 

Due to numerous Tenants complaining about the High costs of these service charges I insist that a meeting/consultation needs to take place to fully explain these HIGH charges to your Tenants whether this is by letter/email/Zoom etc. as your Tenant have the right to question this and get answers on these HIGH costs which to date the Housing Association has not been forthcoming with an answer.

 

I must also remind you that to date you have not been fully open and accountable to your tenants on this matter as you should be. (delete if required)

 

 

 

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  • 3 weeks later...
Posted (edited)

I had already emailed them back before your post, but I will make another formal complaint. I've emailed asking what is happening and when will I get the correct service charges letter but every email gets forwarded to the same person in charge of our service charges and he gets extremely defensive and now has stopped replying to me. 

 

It has also been more than one month and a day since I requested supporting documents for all service charges which is a legal requirement under the Landlords and Tenants Act 1985 (section 22) that they make them available within one month. 

 

At this point, I've had no other indication that they're not going to charge me the incorrect amounts on my next direct debit. Would it be wise to cancel this until they can send me the new charges letter?

 

Also, there happens to be a Team's meeting with Clarion tonight to give residents the opportunity to voice concerns about the service charges. I'll be sure to join!

Edited by JoeyJoeC
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After the meeting, in which I raised this, they've sent a revised service charges letter. 

 

The new amounts (yearly):

  • Communal Electricity - £5.02 (£0.10 a week)
  • Communal Water - £6.03 (£0.10 a week)
  • Fire Protection - £3.66 (£0.10 a week)

The weekly's are what they put down on the same letter. Actually looking at this charges sheet, they've messed it up. They've also put the yearly cost for "Provision of mechanical and electrical" as weekly 😒.

 

I think I'll wait for the direct debit to come out of my account and work out if this is just a mistake on paper or if they're over charging me on other charges. 

 

 

 

 

Actually, what the hell is going on with this letter? The amounts are all over the place! Look at the "Weekly total for the whole year". Our rent is £101.23 a year? 

 

I just called the accounts people just to check what they're going to be charging me and they said £125 a week. The letter says £111.60... 

 

Not sure what to do anymore! They're extremely useless. 

revised service charges letter..pdf

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Hi

 

I really do not know what your Housing Association are playing at but on looking at that breakdown I would understand it if you were a Leaseholder in one of the flats but certainly not as a Tenant as some on that list are NOT a Service Charge for Tenants they are included in the Rent that you pay i.e.

 

Administration Fee - Not for a Tenant as this is what your rent pay different if a Leaseholder.

Communal Cleaning - Yes they could charge this for both Tenant and Leaseholder.

Communal Electricity - Not for Tenant as this is what your rents pay different if Leaseholder.

Communal Water - Not for Tenant as this is what you rent pay different if Leaseholder.

Communal Window Cleaning - Yes they could charge this for both Tenant and Leaseholder.

Door Entry Service Contract - Not for Tenant as this is what your rent pay different if a Leaseholder.

Estate Caretaking - Not for Tenant as this is what your rent pay different if a Leaseholder.

Fire Protection - Not for Tenant as this is what your rent pay different if a Leaseholder.

Grounds Maintenance Contract - Not for Tenant as this is what your rent pay different if a Leaseholder.

Lifts - Not for Tenant as this is what you pay your rent different is a Leaseholder.

Playground Maintenance - Not for Tenant as this is what you pay rent for different if a Leaseholder.

Provision of mechanical and electrical - Not for Tenant as this is what you pay your rent for different if a Leaseholder.

Provision of other equipment - Not for Tenant as this is what you pay rent for different if a Leaseholder.

Refuse Collection - Yes they could charge this for both Tenant and Leaseholder.

Roof Top Safety - Not for Tenant as this is what you pay rent for different if a Leaseholder.

Water Pump Maintenance - Not for Tenant as this is what you pay your rent for different if a Leaseholder.

 

Challenge, Challenge, Challenge but everyone must do this as what I am seeing from what you have posted to be honest is charges that I would expect to see a Leaseholder get and them to have the cheek to add an Administration Fee what the Heck are they playing at.

 

If you look through the list their are only a couple of things I point out they could charge for both Tenant and Leaseholder but the rest IMO is what I would expect to see a Leaseholder being charged not a Tenant of a Housing Association otherwise they are making one hell of a Profit with the Rents.

 

The best way I can describe the above if that came in front of me at a Board Meeting (I was Vice Chair of a very Large Housing Association) the Financial Officer would be torn a new one at that meeting by me and told to explain why that was not taken into account for any proposed Rent Increase as the most of those in that list should be in the rents paid not added as a seperate Service Charge to Tenants the difference is when it comes to Leaseholders or those that have purchased the property in a Housing Association Building.

 

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On 21/04/2021 at 01:29, stu007 said:

Hi

 

I really do not know what your Housing Association are playing at but on looking at that breakdown I would understand it if you were a Leaseholder in one of the flats but certainly not as a Tenant as some on that list are NOT a Service Charge for Tenants they are included in the Rent that you pay i.e.

 

Administration Fee - Not for a Tenant as this is what your rent pay different if a Leaseholder.

Communal Cleaning - Yes they could charge this for both Tenant and Leaseholder.

Communal Electricity - Not for Tenant as this is what your rents pay different if Leaseholder.

Communal Water - Not for Tenant as this is what you rent pay different if Leaseholder.

Communal Window Cleaning - Yes they could charge this for both Tenant and Leaseholder.

Door Entry Service Contract - Not for Tenant as this is what your rent pay different if a Leaseholder.

Estate Caretaking - Not for Tenant as this is what your rent pay different if a Leaseholder.

Fire Protection - Not for Tenant as this is what your rent pay different if a Leaseholder.

Grounds Maintenance Contract - Not for Tenant as this is what your rent pay different if a Leaseholder.

Lifts - Not for Tenant as this is what you pay your rent different is a Leaseholder.

Playground Maintenance - Not for Tenant as this is what you pay rent for different if a Leaseholder.

Provision of mechanical and electrical - Not for Tenant as this is what you pay your rent for different if a Leaseholder.

Provision of other equipment - Not for Tenant as this is what you pay rent for different if a Leaseholder.

Refuse Collection - Yes they could charge this for both Tenant and Leaseholder.

Roof Top Safety - Not for Tenant as this is what you pay rent for different if a Leaseholder.

Water Pump Maintenance - Not for Tenant as this is what you pay your rent for different if a Leaseholder.

 

Challenge, Challenge, Challenge but everyone must do this as what I am seeing from what you have posted to be honest is charges that I would expect to see a Leaseholder get and them to have the cheek to add an Administration Fee what the Heck are they playing at.

 

If you look through the list their are only a couple of things I point out they could charge for both Tenant and Leaseholder but the rest IMO is what I would expect to see a Leaseholder being charged not a Tenant of a Housing Association otherwise they are making one hell of a Profit with the Rents.

 

The best way I can describe the above if that came in front of me at a Board Meeting (I was Vice Chair of a very Large Housing Association) the Financial Officer would be torn a new one at that meeting by me and told to explain why that was not taken into account for any proposed Rent Increase as the most of those in that list should be in the rents paid not added as a seperate Service Charge to Tenants the difference is when it comes to Leaseholders or those that have purchased the property in a Housing Association Building.

 

 

Thanks Stu. Do you know where I can find some official documentation about what they're legally allowed to charge for? They're still ignoring me, I plan to go to my MP about this as I've now got a list of people that are being overcharged £100's for their mistakes and they won't do anything unless they complain themselves. I can only assume all 500+ tenants are being 'scammed' by them, it's a huge deal and there needs to be some sort of enquiry.  

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That will be in there Rent and Service Charge Policy which I have previously mentioned that you should ask for a copy of and I hope you have and been provided with it.

 

That breakdown of service charges seems to contradict what they have stated on their own website 'Service Charge Update: September 2020':

 https://www.myclarionhousing.com/my-home/payments-rents-and-charges/understanding-your-service-charges

 

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Read carefully as it is a badly formatted document.  It says weekly total for whole year and that from April 2021 you will be paying £111.60 per week in total.

 

Seems quite reasonable to me £101.23 rent per week and £10.37 services charges per week.

 

For this type of Housing they have agreement with Government that the increase in rent including services charges will be below a certain percentage. 

 

 

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Posted (edited)

It's not just badly formatted, the totals don't add up, the column headings don't make sense. For example "Provision of mechanical and electrical" has the same amount on both tables, where as others are different. From what I could understand, the bottom table (should be) the total yearly amounts, so each value should be 52 times the top table, but they've not done that for everything. The bottom table also has a total (not shown) of £125 a week. I called them to ask how much I would be paying, and they're using that amount (£125 vs £111.60 which is on the lastest letter). 

 

I've checked my tenancy agreement, and it doesn't actually say if I am fixed or variable, they never filled out the boxes on that one. I'd assume variable though. 

Edited by JoeyJoeC
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Have you asked them for copies of the Policies I have perviously mentioned as you need to see these to be able to challenge them as to whether they have followed their own Polices and Procedures correctly

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sar time too surely?

 

dx

 

please don't hit Quote...just type we know what we said earlier..

DCA's view debtors as suckers, marks and mugs

NO DCA has ANY legal powers whatsoever on ANY debt no matter what it's Type

and they

are NOT and can NEVER  be BAILIFFS. even if a debt has been to court..

If everyone stopped blindly paying DCA's Tomorrow, their industry would collapse overnight... 

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I have seen thousands of these housing association service charges accounts and the one from Clarion is fairly typical. 

 

Some of the items will be fixed amounts where the contract cost is known for the year. Other items will be what are reserve estimated amounts, where they estimate cost based on previous year, but allow for some increase. This is so they collect enough in service charges during the year, to cover what they think the overall cost will be.  During a year for some items they will estimate more than the actual cost and for some items they will estimate below what the actual cost turns out to be. So they adjust items up and down as required.

 

I am not surprised by the issue you are highlighting (squiffy account details), but the important information, is what they will actually be charging. As long as they only charge you rent £101.23 and service charges £10.37 per week and they confirm that these amounts cannot be increased beyond an agreed percentage each year, then I would think this is reasonable.

 

 

We could do with some help from you.

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