A SINGLE parent from Bodmin has hit out at her landlords after the company imposed a five-fold increase in a weekly service charge.
Sarah Warne has rented her two-bedroom property at Forth an Venegh through Penwith Housing Association since 2008.
But in March she was "horrified" to receive a letter from the social landlord – part of Devon and Cornwall Housing – stating that a service charge at the property, which she believes is for maintenance of the communal areas, was to be increased from £1.02 to a £4.97 a week.
The letter, seen by this newspaper, also points out that a deficit of £3,095.57 has been "building up over several years" and "now it needs to be paid for".
"I am so upset and concerned by this – as a single parent who works part-time this is money I just don't have," she said.
"This letter horrified me in quite a few ways. [Namely] the huge increase I would have to pay over a month and why the housing association, as a supposedly responsible social landlord, had allowed the development to run up such a large bill.
"This was also the first time that we had been sent the accounts that detailed how our money was being spent and the fact we were being charged £1,500 a year for gardeners to come and cut a few areas of grass that collectively are no larger than a blanket is outrageous."
Ms Warne has sent a letter of complaint to Penwith Housing Association and is continuing to fight her case.
She said it had agreed to write off £1,500 of the deficit but she feels they should wipe it completely and has since received a Rent Arrears statement from an Income Recovery Officer detailing £172.21 of arrears.
"I take it this amount has been determined by the increased service charge that I have refused to pay," she said.
"My complaint letters were copied to the chief executive who has not replied to me when in fact my correspondence highlights that they have not acted within legal guidelines and they most certainly haven't acted as a responsible social landlord."
A spokesman from Penwith Housing Association said in response: "While we recognise there has been an increase in the stated service charge, our combined rent and service charges for a two-bed property at Forth en Venegh are about £83.38 per week, well below the current market rent of a two-bed property in Bodmin, which equates to approximately £126.92 per week, not including any service charge costs.
"We reviewed the service charges in query and have made appropriate reductions where possible and we regularly review areas in which we can save money for our residents with this scheme being under particular review at this time.
"We remain committed to offering a fair price for our services and providing a range of practical support measures to assist with payments in order to minimise the impact of the increase in charges. We will continue to build on our initiatives to create a simpler and more transparent approach."