Sanctuary homes residents must pay “hidden rent” for grass cutting and window cleaning at Littleport and Soham

Cllr Daniel Divine (UKIP)

Cllr Daniel Divine (UKIP) - Credit: Archant

Tenants are being charged for services like window cleaning and looking after communal areas at Sanctuary homes in Littleport and Soham - at the same time as rents have been frozen.

County councillor Daniel Divine criticised the charge saying it was a “hidden rent.”

“I have received a number of complaints from residents in Elmside in Littleport, coincidentally I have come across a number of complaints on a Soham Facebook group,” he said.

“Some tenants have been sent letters by mistake, others confused, the majority seem annoyed.

“I am no fan of service charges it’s just another way to generate income, any increases should be put together in their rent,” he said.

One tenant wrote to Cllr Divine saying: “I have received a message explaining that all tenants and leaseholders will share the cost of grounds maintenance of the estate.

“No mention of freehold properties being subject to a charge. Can this be fair?”

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One woman is being charged 58p a week for maintenance, another £1.02 a week, another says she pays £1.50 while another said she pays £14.15 a month which she agreed to when she moved in.

It is thought the service charge is for things like communal grass cutting, hedges, block paved areas and lighting that is maintained by contractors used by the housing association.

Cllr Divine said of the service charge, which comes into effect in April, that: “It doesn’t seem fair that Sanctuary are freezing their rents but at the same time introducing a service charge.”

A spokesman for Sanctuary said: “To date some residents have not paid a service charge and therefore have not contributed towards the full cost of all of the services that they receive, while residents at similar schemes in other parts of the country have been paying to cover these costs, which include grounds keeping, window cleaning, and general upkeep of communal areas.

“We need to ensure these costs are allocated appropriately and some weeks ago gave affected residents a full breakdown of the services they currently benefit from, along with their actual costs.

“In the interest of fairness and transparency residents are being asked to pay for the services they benefit from going forward.”