RESIDENTS have hit out at a catalogue of problems at their “terrible” retirement flats, including suffering days without hot water, after being hit with a crippling 76 per cent service charge.

Over-55s living in Harris Court and Drew House in Summertown, Oxford, have banded together to address the steep fee rise by their housing association, Green Square Accord (GSA). They say some services, such as ‘intelligent electrics’ have risen in cost by 640 per cent.

Tenants – some of whom are on housing benefit, some living off their pensions, and some in work– have been backed by activists from the tenants union Acorn, who joined them for a protest at GSA’s office on the Oxford Business Park in Cowley.

The problems experienced by tenants include broken boiler, damaged windows and fences, infrequent lawn mowing and hedge-trimming, water leaks from pipes and almost no access to a housing officer. There have also been issues with botched repairs, with maintenance teams returning to the properties up to eight times to fix certain facilities.

GSA has apologised for the problems which it says were a result of repair work to the flats’ heating system, and said the fee rise is necessary due to rising costs in providing services.

Michael Ryan, a tenant at Harris Court, in Harpes Road, said: “A lot of days we haven’t had hot water. Since September last year we’ve lost around 18 days of hot water. It was six days in a row at one stage. Some people were having to boil kettles to have a bath. It’s not reasonable.”

He added: “The lawn hasn’t been cut; it’s only done around four times a year. Communal cleaning service fees have risen too but the cleaning lady isn’t being paid more than she was. GSA haven’t explained the doubling in fees of our ‘communal utilities’ either.”

Another resident, Sue Joseph, said: “We’re not getting the service that we pay for anyway, even before the hikes. The lawn used to be cut once a fortnight and hedges were trimmed regularly – but not anymore. We don’t get personal window cleaning anymore either, they decided only communal windows would be cleaned.”

She added: “For three months some of our windows were covered with plastic bags. People came along to fix them, but they got the wrong measurements, then took another few weeks to return.

“A lady upstairs had a leak, it was coming through the ceiling – it took months for someone to come out and look at it.”

Tenant Malcolm Bridges, said: “Somebody came to fix the boiler, but he visited eight times without fixing it, are we paying for those visits?”

Justifying the fee rise, GSA said: “GSA is a not-for-profit organisation which is faced with the same economic pressures and increased costs, and we have a duty to the tens of thousands of people to whom we provide housing and support across the country to make sure that we operate sustainably.

“When the cost of providing services to a particular building increases, the only fair and ethical way to recover those costs is to pass them on directly to those who benefit from them.” 

GSA also stated that any customers who had concerns about their rent or service charge increase should contact them directly.

However, Mr Ryan said: “I tried to speak with the service charge team but was told ‘no, we can’t put you through’.”

GSA also has properties in Headington, Rose Hill, Greater Leys, Blackbird Leys and Cowley.



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