Anger as leaseholders' repair bills go through the roof
ANGRY residents are refusing to pay a council demand of £11,000 each towards a new roof on their block of flats. The district council has told 15 private leaseholders in St Pauls Place, off of Hatfield Road in St Albans, that they need to share the estima
ANGRY residents are refusing to pay a council demand of £11,000 each towards a new roof on their block of flats.
The district council has told 15 private leaseholders in St Pauls Place, off of Hatfield Road in St Albans, that they need to share the estimated £230,500 cost of the work.
But the residents are furious at the demand which they say is "extortionate," especially so close to Christmas and in the current economic climate.
Neil Jordan, aged 28, and his fiancé Kaye McBlain, aged 26, moved into the block about two years ago and they might now have to change their wedding plans if they are forced to part with the money the council is demanding.
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The date is booked for 2010 but they may have to rethink their honeymoon plans to travel to South Africa, from where Kaye comes, to coincide with the football World Cup.
Even though the council has agreed the residents can spread the payment over an interest-free period of five years, Neil insists it is still unreasonable to expect people to be able to afford the monthly repayments of around £180.
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He said: "We still can't afford it - it's still ruining Christmas, it's on our minds all the time and it is putting a dent in our wedding budget.
"But to be honest I don't think we are the worst off. There are retired residents and people living on pensions. And we really don't know what the problem with the roof is other than the council say it has exceeded its lifetime. But it should never have been left to get to the stage where it needs to be replaced at this cost."
The work will include the installation of solar panels but the council insists that they are being fitted free of charge to the leaseholders.
But Neil, who works for a bank in London, said he had carried out his own investigations and believes that the roof will need extra support to hold the panels.
He also feels that the council has failed to explain the situation adequately and he is refusing to pay up.
Neil's views are echoed by 60-year-old Roy Wilson, another resident at St Pauls Place.
He works as a welder but his wife Kathleen is retired and they say that there is no way they can afford to meet their share of the cost for the new roof.
Mr Wilson, who is only aware of one leak in the roof, said: "I was disgusted. I'm already struggling as it is. We are not going to pay that extortionate price."
MP for St Albans Anne Main is also fighting the residents' cause and has written to the council asking them to be sympathetic to the hardship that the payments could cause.
The council will be footing the bills of their eight remaining tenants in the block along with one leaseholder's bill.
A council spokesperson said that the roof needed repairing because it was "wet and disintegrating".
She said the council was originally going to spread the cost over three years but had decided to spread it over five to, "ease the financial burden and assist people during the credit crunch".
Electricity from the solar panels would be sold to the National Grid and might benefit leaseholders with reduced costs in communal fees for energy.
She added: "The council has a contractual arrangement with the leaseholders who have chosen to buy the leasehold rights from the freeholder, the council.They are therefore responsible for the liabilities as well as the benefits of owning the leasehold of their homes. The council is obliged to recover costs due to them under contracted arrangements, as this forms the revenue that it uses to pay for the services it supplies to residents and taxpayers.
"However the council is always mindful of individual's circumstances and will always work with its customers to ensure an outcome that is fair and reasonable to all sides.