This is a story submitted to us by a member who has a fleecehold bungalow in a retirement complex managed by a housing association. The leasehold system has been used and abused for many years to finance retirement housing schemes. It is felt by many that vulnerable older people are being exploited – indeed the Leasehold Knowledge Partnership started out as a pressure group for better retirement homes.
An Elder’s Story :-
My husband and I moved to Maryvale Court in Lichfield in June 2010. Having purchased a freehold bungalow we were advised to sign a covenant which we understood was to protect us should any problems arise as a consequence of an unadopted road to gain access to our property.
It was explained that we would be required to pay a monthly maintenance fee to Sanctuary which would be placed into a sinking fund to be used for repairs only and not replacement. The sinking fund has a total contribution of approximately £15,000 per annum.
Whilst residents fully appreciate the fact that management fees must be paid it is generally felt that they are somewhat excessive. Indeed, fees were increased by some 8% whilst State Pension increased by just 3%.
The age of residents varies between age 70 and 97 and many of whom are in poorer health, suffer mobility problems and are on a limited income and don’t feel that they are able to tackle the issues with the mismanagement of our complex.
During the course of the last 5 years, the management of the site has deteriorated considerably. Jobs which should have been done have taken many, many months and, in some cases, years at a cost higher than expected. Contractors are taken from a very short list of Sanctuary approved Contractors who reside many miles away and we simply don’t have a fair choice.
The last two issues have become a huge stumbling block.
We have a beautiful pool area which has not been properly maintained at all during the last 5 years. However, there are benches and previously there were some gently sloping steps enabling residents to walk around the pool area and sit in a communal area. This has now been ruined as a result of steep concrete steps being built – without consultation – together with an ugly stainless steel rail being erected at an horrific cost of some £6,000.
Residents are unhappy about the way in which Sanctuary has redesigned the pool area and despite many requests since August 2018 we are still awaiting a report from the Health & Safety Officer in particular with regard to the steps which are not easily negotiable by residents. Indeed, I personally tripped on the now raised steps and had to have my toes strapped up for 2 weeks. Despite reporting this to Sanctuary it has been ignored.
As a result of some workmen jet washing the roof of a property owned by Sanctuary but situate within the Maryvale Court complex, repairs are now required to the roof which will be carried out on 1st April 2019 at a cost of some £31,000 which will be paid for from our sinking fund.
The majority of residents have issued a formal complaint regarding this but Sanctuary fail to answer any letters or emails adequately and continue to treat all residents as if they were tenants and not freeholders.
We are required by Sanctuary to pay for a policy under our maintenance contract with them but this continues to refer to leaseholders and not freeholders and they refuse to make any changes or additions to ensure that it covers us as freeholders.
There are trees onsite which are over 100 years old and subject to a preservation order but they are extraordinarily tall for such a residential complex and we have, on a number of occasions, requested that they be made safe because over the years 3 of the bungalows onsite have been damaged but Sanctuary choose to ignore this fact and the trees continue to grow.
It would appear to residents of Maryvale Court that Sanctuary treats each and every single resident as a tenant and not a homeowner and can and will do exactly what they like.
Sadly, I lost my husband in 2017 and some of the original residents have now passed. One resident has moved because they simply couldn’t cope with the stress, mismanagement and blatant disregard to residents and even this was hampered by long and protracted battle with Sanctuary.
Having found your website, I have contacted my local MP together with the Minister for Housing and Homelessness and can only hope that with continued lobbying we can fight for a fairer deal for all who have to pay maintenance companies inordinate sums of money for very little in return.
It is clear from this that fleecehold is being used in retirement complexes, and all the issues of lack of accountability and transparency found on new build estates are the same. At least fleecehold is not discriminatory, exploitation is applied even handedly to all ages!