HorNet have been in discussions with We Own It – a campaign group against privatisation of what they believe should be publicly owned and run. Their campaign is across the board, but does include parks and public green spaces. They have been made aware of the back door privatisation of public open spaces on private new build estates and are supportive of our campaign. Visit their parks page to see how they are promoting our work.
You might care to look around their site – we suspect many HorNets will be sympathetic to their general aims and would like to give them support.
Working together where our aims align will make us both more successful!
HorNet members tirelessly take every opportunity to influence government policy. Here is a submission by a member on our behalf to the consultation on developer contributions: Page one
What this is saying is that there should be a drastic rethink in the way that local infrastructure provision is funded. In no other country are residential house builders expected to provide this, and the result of doing so is to reduce the quality and value for money of the houses and the of estates themselves. The builders are commercial enterprises so in order to maintain their profit margin, they skimp on overpriced homes and do not offer up estate land for adoption. They also are less willing to provide their quota of affordable homes as they are already stumping up millions for roads, schools and community facilities.
What has this got to do with estate charges? Well, the open spaces on new build estates required by the Town and Country planning act are public areas for the benefit of the whole local community. These areas are being “provided” via section 106 agreements in the same way as other infrastructure. However ownership remains in private hands, and long term maintenance is not funded by the whole community, just the home owners on the estate. Government has sat by whilst this model has grown and done nothing to protect home owners interests. Although there is talk of estate service charge disputes being heard by the First Tier Lands Tribunal, this has not been enacted. It is HorNet’s view that it would not be of much practical help due to the cost and stress involved in taking a case to court. The current court fee is £400, roughly equivalent to a years charges, and that’s just to get started! If there is to be a redress scheme, it needs to be affordable and accessible to the lay person. This is something we shall be saying in response to another consultation on improving redress in housing, and the more of us who fill it in the louder our voice will be, so here is the link https://www.gov.uk/government/consultations/strengthening-consumer-redress-in-housing
Please take the time to fill it in. You need only do the parts you feel are relevant, or if it is easier, just write an email to the address on the page.
We have heard from our friends in the Unhappy Homeowners Against Greenbelt Group that there are two recent cases where judges at the small claims courts have been convinced by the evidence of lack of service.
They directed Greenbelt to a higher court mainly because they have understood the full picture including the fact that other home owners would then have to pay more (unless they took action to have their charges reduced).
Congratulation to the Greenbelt victims who have shown dogged persistence in successfully opposing unreasonable charges.
What does it mean for everyone else? It is a huge step away from the small claims courts being used to force payment of unreasonable or disputed charges. To defend yourself you must have good evidence. We understand that covenants with Greenbelt do not include a rent charge, so those home owners who are subject to this beware of the right of re-entry. This disproportionate remedy is still on the statute books and means that you can have your freehold taken from you if you don’t pay up. We are fighting to have this law amended.
If it is not so easy to bully people into paying unreasonable and unjustified estate charges, the management companies will have to start to justify the costs they rack up.
Issues reported and discussed by members over the last month include:
Several prospective new build purchaser have walked away when they found out about unregulated estate maintenance charges.
One member reports difficulties after the builder owned management company went bust. A Carillionesque sign of things to come? Certainly a long term risk for this form of privatisation of public open spaces.
More and more examples are being reported of home owners being unable to find out exactly what they are paying for. Management companies simply ignore or refuse to answer requests for detailed a breakdown of costs incurred.
We have heard of several instances of huge obstacles being put in the way of residents who wish to manage the company themselves, even when their legal documents say they can!
HorNets are still working away on their MPs, highlighting the unfairness of the private estate model, and the complete lack of any effective regulatory mechanism to prevent the large and unjustified increase in charges which many face in addition to rises in council tax.
Every vote counts! Please sign this petition and get all your friends, family and neighbours to help. We know there are probably about 1 million households on private estates – so we could easily reach the target of 100,000 signatures. This important petition is asking the government to tackle the fundamental unfairness of estate dwellers funding the maintenance of public open spaces, which should be publicly owned and maintained.