Management fees on woman's new home have trebled

Date: Tuesday 10th October 2017

WHEN Lynn Myers bought her home on a new development just outside Penrith a year ago she was told to expect to pay around £100 per year to cover estate management fees.

Lynn, aged 51, had moved to the area from Flamborough, in the East Riding of Yorkshire, because her 14-year-old daughter, Alexandra, had a place at Penrith Queen Elizabeth Grammar School.

She bought her leasehold two-bedroom property in Carleton Meadows last September and was shocked when she received a bill informing her of an anticipated annual change which will be more than three times the original fee quoted.

The charges have became more common on new developments as a way of ensuring maintenance work — such as on street lighting, roads, footpaths, play areas and grass cutting — is carried out so the area is kept to a good standard.

Mrs. Myers, who was widowed when her husband Chris died in 2010, said she wanted a nice place for herself and Alexandra to live. “What attracted me to the property was it had parking to be honest, because parking in Penrith is difficult. I didn’t have a job when I first moved here,” she said.

She now works as an administration assistant in Eden Council’s planning department, and is calling for more regulations to guard against such excessive increases. “When I signed up it was £100, but it’s unregulated. It’s just a cash cow,” she said.

Mrs. Myers said that when she first moved in the maintenance work was co-ordinated by the developer, Persimmon Homes, but the contract has since been handed over to a firm called Gateway.

According to her bill, she will be charged £141.16 for the period between 18th July and 31st December, 2017 — with a predicted annual cost of £308.52 for 2018.

She said: “My concern is that these charges are going to escalate. I pay full council tax and I work full-time. I was aware that it was leasehold. I just want to say to local people that if they are going to sign up to these charges to be aware. It’s fleecehold.”

Mrs. Myers said her neighbours were planning to hold a meeting to discuss a plan of action.

In addition, she is involved in two national campaign groups — the National Leasehold Campaign and Homeowners Rights Network (HorNet).

Estate agent Andrew Low, who is the branch manager at H&H King in Devonshire Street, said the service charges, which applied to both freehold and leasehold properties, were becoming more and more common with newer developments because local councils were not adopting them.

Andy Auld, chief executive of Citizens Advice Carlisle and Eden, said it was important to read the small print and to seek legal advice about charges. He added: “We are not aware of clients with this specific issue, though NCA has identified massively increasing charges associated with new build leasehold housing.

“Similar housing was sold freehold in the past. At least parts of the Carleton development are leasehold as opposed to freehold. We know of someone who decided not to buy a new build in Carleton largely because of the scope for service charges to increase.”

A Persimmon Homes Lancashire spokesman said: “Information about management charges at Carleton Meadows was provided to customers’ solicitors at the exchange of contracts.

“Most residents enjoyed a period without charges, during construction of the first phase. Although the initial estimated average management fee was £100 per annum, actual charges for each plot have been calculated to reflect the individual plot size and facilities that each plot benefits from.

“All estate charges are subject to annual review and residents will be advised in writing of any changes to payments by the management company.

“The management company for this development is, and has always been, Gateway Property Management. There is a process for changing the management company, if that is the preference of all the residents on a development. Details can be obtained from Persimmon Homes Lancashire.”