By News Reporters
Several residents living in flats owned by UCLH Charity in Cleveland Street were served notice in February asking for huge increases in rent after they moved back into newly refurbished flats. Tenants unwittingly accepted the refurbishments without realising their rents would escalate as a result. The landlords did not tell the tenants that their rents would increase after refurbishment.
Residents at Cleveland Residences received letters from the managing agents Genesis Housing Association notifying them of a request made to the valuation officers to set a rent at up to three-times their existing rents.
The shocked residents approached the Fitzrovia Neighbourhood Association (FNA) advice service asking for help and questioning why their rent was being increased by so much.
The residents concerned are very distressed and fear they may be forced out of their homes. Some of the rents being demanded are above the level acceptable for housing benefit payment.
“We all think it is disgusting the way we are being treated” said Eddie Duke-Low who has lived in the building over 50 years and is now in his late 70s. He is a retired police officer and Royal Air Force ex-serviceman.
Carmen Loureda has lived here for nearly 30 years. She is retired from her job at the former Middlesex Hospital where she had worked for 28 years. She told Fitzrovia News “It is terrible the way we are being treated. When I was at the hospital I put my job before my private life many times. Now I am being treated like this.”
The three mansion blocks, Cleveland Residences, have recently been refurbished by the owners UCLH Charity. Over the past year residents had been moved from their flats into neighbouring ones and finally moved back in to their newly refurbished flats as work was completed. But UCLH Charity failed to make tenants aware that the refurbishment would affect their rent. The residents en masse were cajoled into accepting the refurbishment without being made aware of how this would affect the cost of their tenancies.
On returning to his newly refurbished flat Mr Duke-Low and some of the other tenants were asked to sign assured short-hold tenancies. But they refused knowing that this might have changed their tenancy status (in actual fact this would not be valid under housing law).
During the process of advising Mr Duke-Low, the FNA learned that he originally had an unfurnished flat. He had furnished it himself with his own carpets, cooker, gas fire, fridge freezer, and light fittings. He was persuaded last year by the owners to give up these in exchange for new central heating and a new fitted kitchen and bathroom.
Initial advice obtained suggests that Mr Duke-Low may have to accept the rent increase because he accepted the refurbishment. While improvements have been made to the flats, it seems that the many residents who have lived there for decades could face losing their homes through no fault of their own, victims of a Landlord who has shown contempt for its tenants by cajoling them to accept changes to their tenancies without proper consultation.
UCLH Charity said the valuation office will set a fair rent and that this is governed by housing law.
The FNA have written to all tenants asking them to contact the advice service if they are served with huge rent increases.