A heavy price for St Albans home

Apartments on the former Oaklands College campus in St Albans

Apartments on the former Oaklands College campus in St Albans - Credit: Photo supplied

A St Albans couple hope to shame the landlords and managing agents of their shared ownership home on national television after discovering they are expected to help pay towards £300,000 communal boilers.

Glenn Walsh and his partner Emma Birdsall live at Whitley Court, part of a complex built on the former Oaklands College Campus in the city centre.

In October last year the Herts Advertiser publicised problems with faulty heat meters at the site as residents complained about “buck-passing” after some were hit with back-bills of over £1,000.

And now, Glenn and Emma are fighting against an “unfair” increase to their service charge as they and fellow residents are expected to help pay towards replacement communal boilers to be installed in 15 years time, at a cost of £300,000.

The additional cost would mean paying £21.36 a month, or £256.32 annually, on top of their mortgage and rental costs. Glenn has approached TV consumer champion Dominic Littlewood to see whether the debacle can be broadcast on the BBC programme Don’t Get Done Get Dom.

He has also asked St Albans MP Anne Main to intervene.

Ownership and management of the site is extremely complicated as there are numerous organisations involved, and Glenn said he was fed up with “being fobbed off”.

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Hightown Praetorian housing association owns the freehold of one shared ownership and two rented blocks.

The association also has a long lease on three shared ownership blocks, including Whitley Court where Glenn and Emma live, but the freeholder is developer Nicholas King Homes (NKH). And the communal parts of the estate, including the buildings housing the boilers, are owned by NKH or Oaklands College Management Company.

Glenn said: “Shared-ownership landlords appear to not have any responsibility within the property. Boilers tend to have a life span of 15-20 years and the communal heating system was installed less than five years ago.”

Adding to the couple’s woes is that their heat meter is still not functioning correctly.

David Bogle, chief executive of Hightown, said the majority of heat meters had been fixed by NKH with a “handful” still showing anomalous readings.

He said that has been raised “urgently with them, as all of the meters need to be working to apportion the costs correctly. We hope they will resolve this very soon.”

David said the gas boilers, which are not owned by Hightown, are operated and maintained by the Oaklands estate managing agent.

He said it was not unusual for agents to anticipate future work, such as new boilers, and ask leaseholders for contributions.

But, as Hightown believes the estimated cost is “too high we are currently making representations to reduce that cost”.