Outrage as firm orders thousands from Portsmouth residents

From left, Nicky Waldon and her daughter Scarlett Berry, Joan Morel, Elaine Louth, Gemma Potts, Monica Cassidy, Emma Staniforth, Kathryn Rimmington, Ed Edmunds, Jamie Humphreys, Yvonne Meredith, and sitting, Rachel Rawlings. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (150416-2)
From left, Nicky Waldon and her daughter Scarlett Berry, Joan Morel, Elaine Louth, Gemma Potts, Monica Cassidy, Emma Staniforth, Kathryn Rimmington, Ed Edmunds, Jamie Humphreys, Yvonne Meredith, and sitting, Rachel Rawlings. Picture: Ian Hargreaves (150416-2)
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FURIOUS residents say they are being ‘pushed out of their homes’ after demands that each tenant pays thousands of pounds towards repairs.

Neighbours at St Mary’s House in Fratton, Portsmouth,which is owned by housing association First Wessex, have been told that they will need to make up a shortfall of hundreds of thousands of pounds in the ‘sinking fund’.

The fund has been paid into by residents of 59 flats since 1991 to cover repair work at the building.

They need to find the money to pay for roof and guttering repairs and window refurbishment and replacement, which has already started.

This would usually be paid for by the sinking fund but it does not contain enough for the work.

Tenant Emma Staniforth, 33, said: ‘We have been informed by First Wessex that the bill is likely to be around £8,500 per resident.’

If it totals £8,500 per flat, the shortfall would stand at £501,500. First Wessex has not revealed how large the fund shortfall is.

Residents say they have become stressed, ill and have taken days off work worrying about paying.

Joan Morel, 78, who has lived in the former workhouse for 15 years, said this is the first time she has felt frightened about not being able to pay her bills.

Emma said: ‘It is very upsetting to think I may find myself unable to eat or potentially forced out of my home because of this. We are all reasonable people and we work hard.

‘We do not expect something for nothing but we do expect it to be fair and we don’t feel like this is.’

To pay the charge many residents say they will have to take out high-interest loans. They fear if they can not pay they will be forced to leave their homes.

Rachel Rawlings, 23, is disabled and has health complications that leave her unable to work.

She said: ‘It is devastating. I only bought the flat in November and I won’t be able to get a loan as my only income is my disability allowance.’

First Wessex has also told residents that it will be putting up the monthly service charge.

First Wessex operations director Carol Williams said: ‘Unfortunately the cost of the major works carried out on this occasion has exceeded the funds available.

The upkeep and maintenance for St Mary’s House has increased dramatically over the years.

‘This has meant that the contributions into the sinking fund have not been able to keep up with the cost of works and we have explained to residents that the fund would not always be able to cover the cost of all works needed.’

Ms Williams said the firm was increasing the service charge to leasehold residents by approximately £80 per month to replenish the sinking fund and to avoid one-off costs such as this in the future.

She added: ‘If residents are unable to pay then they will be in breach of their lease agreement.

‘We fully understand that this is a substantial amount of money for our residents and we’ve been working to support each of our leaseholders by discussing their individual circumstances.’