Leaseholders in Norwich hit out at city council over bills for thousands of pounds

David Feltham, the chairman of the Norwich Leaseholders Association. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

David Feltham, the chairman of the Norwich Leaseholders Association. Picture: MARK BULLIMORE

A group which represents thousands of people who lease their homes from Norwich City Council has called for the authority to play fair over what it charges for repairs and maintenance.

The Norwich Leaseholders Association (NLA) says people who have bought former council homes from City Hall have been hit with bills for thousands of pounds - for work they say should cost far less.

The group, which will hold its annual general meeting at City Hall on Thursday night, says people have been left in tears after bills landed on their doorsteps.

They say that leaseholders are punished by the nature of the contract between Norwich City Council and Norfolk County Council's arm-length company NPS.

Work is grouped into large contracts to make it more convenient for the council, the association says.

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But they say that means work costs more for leaseholders - who could have sourced cheaper quotes independently.

They gave an example where one leaseholder received a bill for about £1,500 for having her immersion heater replaced, while the association said had she arranged for a replacement herself and put in a standard copper cylinder it would only have cost a maximum £250.

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David Feltham, chairman of the NLA, said: 'In letting contracts under the present regime and practices, the council and its agents are not taking fully into account the impacts both financially, or indeed morally and mentally, this form of contracting is having on individual leaseholders.

'Indeed the receipt of large demands for payments causes undue stress and worry for many individuals.

'Large contracts are for the convenience and benefit of time and volume management for the council – not the leaseholder.'

The association is calling on the council to make a string of changes, including: reimbursing all leaseholders who have been 'grossly overcharged' for work over the past five years; reducing management fees and ensuring leaseholders do not having to shoulder costs for contract management and council convenience.

A city council spokeswoman said the authority was 'concerned with getting best value for all tenants – and by extension leaseholders'.

She said: 'A single contract awarded to a single person operator may be cheaper but unfortunately due to the volumes we work at, and to achieve the standards we must reach, it's simply not cost effective or rational to award thousands of contracts on an individual basis.'

The council acknowledged that, as joint owner of NPS Norwich, it receives 50pc of profit from the arrangements.

But the spokeswoman said: 'NPS Norwich specifies and let the contracts for major capital programmes with the actual physical work almost always carried out by private companies who have won the work in open tender.

Among other things, NPS performance is based on the value we get from those contracts so it's not in their or anyone else's for that work to be anything other the best deal for tenants and leaseholders.'

The council said it would be happy to discuss the NLA's requests with the association.

Leaseholders are invited to attend the association's public meeting at City Hall this Thursday at 7pm.

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