Kingsnympton leaseholders hit out at 'extortionate' council house improvement costs (From Surrey Comet)
Contact us: Got a photo? Text 'SLPICS' to 80360. Got a story? Call the newsdesk: 020 8722 6318
Leaseholders balk at £10,000 Better Homes contribution for Kingsnympton estate
Homeowners on the Kingsnympton estate have been asked to pay up to £10,000 each towards a council house improvement scheme - a fee some have branded "extortionate".
Landlords and resident owners have received letters informing them that impending works under Kingston Council's Better Homes programme is likely to cost them between £8,000 and £10,000 each.
But several leaseholders have contacted the Surrey Comet saying they believe they are being asked to pay well over the odds for the works.
Leaseholder Penny Atkinson, who owns a flat in the estate's Newdigate House, said: "As a landlord, I do maintain my own property and am therefore aware of what it costs, and these prices seem extortionate.
"We have spoken to a number of leaseholders who feel the same. We are not against the Better Homes programme, we believe tenants should have the best homes possible.
"But we run a small business, and we refurbish our properties a lot more than Kingston Council does.
"The council seems to think we have bags of money, but we don't."
The five year Better Homes scheme, which started in 2012, is a major programme of improvement works that will see all of the borough's council-owned housing ultimately exceed Government standards by 2017.
Resident leaseholders receive a five per cent discount if they pay the full amount on demand, or can have up to 10 years to pay the sum, with the first three years interest free.
Non resident leaseholders who rent their properties out must pay in full once work is completed.
Stephen Connor, who owns three properties in Kingsnympton, thinks the deal is unfair on landlords.
He said: "Our problem is with the administration, not Better Homes.
"We want to see a top line before the works start as to how much this will cost, and time to pay it.
"All that work should have been done over the past 10 years as part of general maintenance and added to our monthly service charges, rather than just lumped in as one huge bill.
"Some of us own more than one property on the estate, and so we're going to have to pay huge sums."
A council spokesman added: "The council have decided that concessions should not be extended to non resident leaseholders, many of whom have a portfolio of ex-council flats which they then let out and receive an income.
"To extend that concession to this group would put an unnecessary strain on the council’s finances and reduce the services that it would be able to provide to its tenants and leaseholders in the future."
Councillor Ian George, lead member for housing, added: "People have been waiting a long time for these improvements and they need to be done.
"People who live in their property will have a period of time to pay the money.
"But if buy to let landlords think the council should be helping them out then I'm sorry, I don't think we should."
Richard Grosvenor, secretary of Kingston Federation of Residents, said the Kingsnympton estimates were "in the mid range", with some leaseholders elsewhere paying up to £18,000.
He said: "It comes as a shock to leaseholders who have not been used to receiving such bills.
"But these sort of major improvement works have not been carried out for the past 30 years, and leaseholders are going to benefit.
"The charges are not insignificant but the works are substantial."
But pensioner Juliet Miller, a resident leaseholder who lives in the Kingsnympton flat she bought, said: "This is not a nest egg, this is my home, which I have worked incredibly hard for.
"People do not have this sort of money."