Looming flat repair costs have tenants fearing a bill they have “no hope” of paying.

Residents at The Pastures in High Wycombe are seeking legal advice over the cost of major works they fear housing association Red Kite will bring next year.

An action group of around 20 leaseholders has formed in response to an estimated final bill per household of around £11,000.

The overall cost of repairs however could run into the “hundreds of thousands”, renters say.

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The leaseholders are mostly “single women, retirees, immigrants and low-income families” concerned about summoning the money by the deadline.

They claim ‘no sink fund or payment plan is in place’.

The group also claim it has tried “for months” to sit down with Red Kite.

Bucks Free Press:

The Pastures

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Red Kite said a 30-day consultation was held in May and it ‘continues to be open to enquiries’.

It also said virtual meetings offered several times to the group spokesperson were “refused”.

It said there is “no ‘profit’ made” by Red Kite, just cost recovery for work it is “obliged by the lease to undertake”.

“These are low-income, former local authority accommodations,” said one leaseholder who declined to be named. “Red Kite did the absolute minimum in terms of repairs and maintenance until 2017 when they began a Major Works consultation.

“In May 2021, they came to us with estimated bills ranging from £11,000 to £13,600.

“They have told us that the final bill will come out in September 2022, and we will have 28 days to pay it.

“The total amounts they are asking from all of us are in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.

“This situation has nothing to do with cladding and no government funds are available for this. No sink fund is in place. No payment plan has been offered.

“The leaseholders are mainly single women, retirees, immigrants and low-income families. There is no hope that we can afford this amount of money.”

Leaseholder Mary Jo Da Silva, 74, said: “If we don’t pay, they will insist the funds are added to our mortgage or they will put a charge on the property. That’s the work of a charitable housing association who advocate partnership, respect, and pride. They are hypocrites.”

Kayleigh Charman, 35, added: “It was a shock to find a letter on my doormat telling me that I have to pay £12,000 towards repair works. It may not seem like a lot of money to some but since I only make £25,000pa, the amount they want from me is half my annual salary.”

She added: “I don’t know anyone who has that kind of money just sitting in a bank account or who can raise that kind of money themselves in the amount of time that Red Kite has issued us.”

Bucks Free Press:

Mary Jo Da Silva (left) and Kayleigh Charman

The group contacted Cllr Maz Hussain and Wycombe MP Steve Baker. It said Mr Baker’s office did respond but of Cllr Hussain: “We never heard from him again.”

It recently sought legal advice from a solicitor.

Red Kite disputed the 28-day claim, saying leaseholders will have known the cost for more than a year when they receive the final invoice.

In response, Red Kite said: “We appreciate and understand that leaseholders will be unhappy at being asked to pay a share of the planned works that are needed for their homes, as required under the terms of their lease, as an equity owner in the building.

“The planned works form part of our programme to ensure our buildings are safe and maintained in a good condition. As the building freeholder, it is our responsibility to make sure these repairs are carried out and health and safety requirements are met.

“It is difficult to cater for the individual circumstances of leaseholders, as just under half are residents living in their own home, with the others renting out their homes as commercial landlords.

The cost of this work is divided between all homes in each block, which varies on the type of work and lease responsibilities, but is estimated to be approximately £11,000.

“We pay our tenants’ share from their rental income, which is the bulk of the cost. The leaseholders are also required to contribute their share based on the terms of their own lease, which is a responsibility they take on when they purchase their home as part of the Government’s discounted Right to Buy scheme or as subsequent purchasers. Information of future costs is provided to the purchaser’s legal advisors before they buy.”

Red Kite said it ‘does not have the ability’ to enter into credit arrangements and has “limited flexibility” of payment choices, adding leaseholders should pursue funding with lenders or approved FCA licenced bodies.

It added: “We encourage leaseholders to save towards the costs of maintaining their homes. There is no ‘profit’ made from this process by us, just recovery of costs of the work we are obliged by the lease to undertake.”

Some work will be completed this financial year and charged in September 2022, while some will be completed in the next financial year and charged in September 2023.

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