Leaseholders in Kingsway Gardens, a housing estate in Andover, Hampshire, have voiced their concerns about the impact of prolonged battles over repair bills on their mental health. The housing association Aster charged tenants up to £37,000 each to cover the cost of major structural work and threatened legal action for non-payment. The residents were initially informed about the necessary work in 2015, but the cost estimates escalated and were eventually challenged in court. A tribunal ruled in 2018 that the residents had not been adequately informed and ordered Aster to reduce the costs.
One affected leaseholder, Jamie Pearman, described the situation as “devastating” and revealed that it had taken a toll on his mental health, leading him to move back in with his parents to save money. Another resident, Michelle Wilson, had to use a lump sum from her pension to settle a £28,000 bill and was threatened with a county court judgment for non-payment. Both Pearman and Wilson expressed frustration over the escalating costs and the burden placed on them.
Conservative MP for North West Hampshire, Kit Malthouse, has called for new legislation to simplify the understanding of such costs. Malthouse believes that Aster should explain to residents why these amounts are appearing on their service charges in simple terms. In response, Aster stated that they had reduced the amount payable by customers for work deemed unnecessary after the tribunal ruling and had passed on cost savings of over £470,000 following negotiations with the contractor. Aster acknowledged the significant costs but maintained that the work was extensive and essential for the safety of the homes. They claimed that all customers received a breakdown of the expenditure and copies of invoices from contractors when requested, and they had provided ongoing financial well-being support to the residents.
Although the majority of residents have either paid in full or made payment arrangements, the issue continues to cause distress and impact the mental well-being of those involved. The leaseholders in Kingsway Gardens are hopeful that changes in legislation will prevent similar situations in the future and provide greater transparency and clarity regarding service charge costs.