'A brick wall': Leaseholders call for council to improve communication

Campaigners from Generation Rent outside Parliament

Campaigners from Generation Rent outside Parliament - Credit: Generation Rent

Fed-up leaseholders are urging housing bosses to be quicker about giving them details of bills they face.

Leaseholders own their homes on council estates and have to pay service charges and costs for caretaking. They are also asked to contribute to the price of works such as re-roofing their homes.

However attendees at the Camden Leaseholders Forum (September 28) said they were unhappy as they felt they had to chase the council for a breakdown of costs or the amount they should pay. 

Local resident Karen Dawson said she follows up calls and emails with the council to get things done on her estate, such as lighting and repairs. 

She said: “We need to be a bit more Greta Thunberg with Camden Council and hold them accountable.” 

One leaseholder of 20 years said it used to be possible to query charges and sometimes get then reduced, but not any longer. 

“It’s been made very clear to you that people are not happy with the way you make up our bills, the way you present our bills,” they told the council. 

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A resident who lives in a Camden estate said the estimate for caretaking was £4,500 last year and the eventual bill was £9,000, while this year’s estimate has dropped to £4,000. 

Carolyn Morgan said she has been chasing a breakdown of costs for major work on her estate in Kentish Town for six months, as well as when the council will want the money, but has not yet heard back.

She said the work, which included roof replacement, external decorations, and repointing, is estimated to cost £30,000. 

“I just get a brick wall,” Carolyn said. “These are substantial sums of money. I have talked to lots of leaseholders in a similar situation.” 

She added: “I think there’s room to improve communication between the council and the leaseholders.” 

Mike Edmunds, Camden’s head of leaseholder services, said the council offers payment plans and a hardship fund for people struggling to pay. 

But the forum’s vice chair Isabella Luger said she feared some residents who cannot afford the costs may be forced to sell up and move elsewhere. 

Mr Edmunds said the council could look again at the way it details costs for work and the way service charge information is presented. 

He said his team is holding workshops with the Contact Camden call centre to help understand leaseholders’ concerns.