Retirement home residents told to find hundreds to fix fire safety measures: ‘Disgraceful’

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Retirement home living provides independence, community and takes away the general issues of homeownership. However, some residents have now found themselves being asked to foot the bill for thousands of pounds worth of maintenance work that they believe should be covered by the developers and landlords.

Chris, Sue and Trevor appeared on this mornings’ episode of Rip-off Britain on BBC One, explaining that the Oak Court retirement home in Manchester was requesting £800 from each resident while also draining their contingency fund. 

The residents pay roughly £4,400 per year in maintenance services fees, which is expected at a retirement home in order to ensure the upkeep. 

They have no issue with this bill, as it was no secret from the start. 

Resident Sue shared: “We’ve prepared to pay the fees, we know what it’s for. It’s ultimately for the good of everybody that lives there.”

However, in 2021 a fire inspection noted that the building’s fire safety measures were in need of attention, leaving residents in the lurch of just what was needed and how much it would cost.

Finally in March 2022, it was revealed that the works would cost roughly £79,000.

The management company for the home, FirstPort, noted that the costs could be covered with the contingency fund created by the residents’ management fee payments, and residents would then just need to provide £800 each. 

However, Sue noted a potential issue:“If we empty out the contingency fund and there is nothing left it will have to be built up again. And the only way I can see that happening is if the fees increase again, possibly substantially. 

Resident Chris highlighted why the residents don’t believe they should be the ones to pay the bill: “These problems are historic, the building was not designed properly and not built properly.”

Martin Boyd, who chairs the Leaseholders Knowledge Partnership which forms part of a parliamentary group looking at leasehold reform told the residents: “I think what’s happening to you is absolutely disgraceful. It’s up to the developer to fix it. They should not be trying to charge you at all.

“The advice at the moment would be to strongly resist the landlord’s attempt to pass these charges onto you. You should perhaps write to them and point out that the legislation is about to change and that will make the developer retrospectively liable for building defects going back 30 years. I think you should be asking them when they’re going to pay to fix their building.”

The new legislation, set to be introduced later this year, would ban freeholders and landlords from passing on costs of historic fire safety issues to the current leaseholders. 

The BBC programme spoke to FirstPort, who reported they were reviewing their position regarding this legislation with the original developer, but until everything had been sorted believed a proportion of the costs should be covered with the contingency fund. 

They also noted that they understand the costs are unwelcome and were working with residents to help plan for the funding, whilst consulting them at every stage. 

Another retirement home resident, Pauline, had a similar issue in Stockport and began taking the issue into her own hands.

Collectively, her and her neighbours had been given a £44,500 bill for essential maintenance work, with each bungalow expected to pay over £5,500.

Pauline shared: “We didn’t expect to ever have to find that amount of money! We didn’t expect huge bills, that’s the whole point of living somewhere like this. We all thought the same when we bought our bungalows.”

Pauline and her neighbour Sue believe the essential work, which is detailed in their contracts, should have been carried out years earlier. 

Sue explained: “They are not maintaining the outside of the bungalow which meant that the work was such that we had to have a bigger job done.”

The managing company, the Guinness Partnership has disputed this claim noting that they had done regular inspections with exterior painting not always deemed necessary. 

The heavy financial hit would be slightly cushioned for the residents as they each expect a £2,000 payout from the winding up of their old maintenance fund but would have to find over £3,000 themselves.

The Guinness Partnership added that they were sorry for any upset and would discuss payment plans for residents who were concerned about the costs. 

Mr Boyd added, in this case: “The big issue which people don’t necessarily realise when they’re buying into these properties is that their service charges have to cover the maintenance of the whole building. When these buildings need maintenance like a new roof the costs can be very high. What they can do is to press the managing agent and the landlord to know if he’s planning properly. At some point it is logical that the retirement industry has got to provide a better product because the community can help solve problems like loneliness.”

A spokesperson for FirsPort said: “With safety as our priority, we immediately put an action plan in place following the latest Fire Risk Assessment findings, working with residents to find the right remediation solution based on independent, specialist advice.

“We are in talks  with the developer, who asked us to provide them with all relevant information on the development for their consideration. However, until we receive confirmation from the developer on how they want to proceed, we expect a proportion of the costs to be funded from the development’s reserve fund, which is in place to contribute towards long-term maintenance or unplanned major works. We completely understand the costs are unwelcome and we are doing all we can to help residents plan for the funding needed where there is an anticipated shortfall.”

Rip Off Britain continues tomorrow on BBC One at 9.15am. has contacted FirstPost and The Guinness Partnership asking for comment.

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