Homeowners in a South London housing block built by Croydon Council’s controversial house building company have said service charge increases and poor repair services have made them consider moving. 

Residents of Auckland Rise, in Crystal Palace, have made an urgent request for a meeting with Croydon Mayor Jason Perry following the discovery that their service charges have doubled this year.

The Brick by Brick built Auckland Rise is a shared ownership property, where rents are strictly regulated but service charges remain uncapped.

A number of residents moved into the property with the promise that shared ownership would make the cost of living in a newly built property affordable.

However, some are now questioning whether Auckland Rise will live up to this promise, with others considering leaving the building altogether.

One such resident is Maria Garcia, a producer who moved into Auckland Rise in October 2021.

Speaking to the local democracy reporting service (LDRS) she said: “I love Crystal Palace but its getting ridiculous, considering the service charge is going up I’m not sure it’s affordable anymore.”

“It’s shared ownership, there’s a cap to how much the rent can increase but in terms of a service charge, they can just keep putting it up. It’s a tricky situation.”

“It’s making me question my decision to move here because when I first bought the property I was told it would be £86 for the service charge and now I am paying £154. I understand inflation means everything goes up but it’s nearly double.”

According to residents, part of the frustration with the rising service charges stems from the apparent lack of transparency from Principle Estate Management, who issues the service charges.

They say that despite numerous requests for them to show their reasons for the hike, further information has yet to be forthcoming.

Residents have also complained that the sheer number of parties involved with the property has made the process of accessing information and ‘getting things done’ confusing.

As Maria said: “There’s too many people involved, its a headache.”

Whilst Brick by Brick built the property and deals with some maintenance issues, residents also have to interact with Principle Estate Management and Metropolitan Thames Valley.

Residents say the standard of communication received from these parties is not acceptable.

Fellow Auckland Rise resident and financial software engineer Nick Toduran said: “Getting in touch with them is easy, getting information from them is the problem. 

"Whenever we ask them for details about what they’re basing their projections on they never respond. It’s just impossible to get anything out of them.”

“One of the things that really get to us is grounds maintenance, they are supposed to send someone out a few times a year to make sure the grounds are maintained properly and the grass is mowed etcetera.

"Last year we believe they may have done this four or five times maximum but in our bill it asks for £2,500 for that.”

Nick told the LDRS how, along with raised service charges, residents have also suffered from delayed repairs on the property.

He said: “I sent out an email to the selling agent and ask them to talk to the owner, Brick by Brick, to get them to fix a few things that were broken.”

Brick by Brick was established by the then Labour run Croydon Council in 2016 as a wholly owned company that would build affordable homes across the borough.

However, following years of overspending and mismanagement, Croydon Council agreed to wind the company down in 2021.

Nick added: “To this day, some of those things still haven’t been attended to, even after we reported it.

"It’s been three years, and I have several emails from them asking me if it has been fixed and it’s like you tell me, you should know this.

“We had a gas leak in our meter room, which is in the middle of the two buildings, and that took them ages to send out people.

“There was one incident where they sent out someone to temporarily fix our glass door, that was a pretty good service. However, since then there has not been much positive to say about them.

“The main issues are, what are our rights and why are you not giving us the information we’re asking for seeing as you are representing us and we are paying these bills.

“If you forget to pay their fee they will be on you immediately but in terms of them replying to you you can wait for a couple days at least and they may not even reply. We don’t know how people can be this bad and keep their jobs.”

The residents’ dissatisfaction with their housing situation led them to get in touch with local Lib Dem councillor Claire Bonham, who raised their concerns with the Mayor in a full council meeting last Wednesday (April 17).

She called for the Conservative administration to support her in challenging ‘unfair service charges’ across the borough.

Ms Bonham told the LDRS: “These charges are a scandal and make a mockery of Brick by Brick’s promise of ‘affordable housing’ to residents in our borough. 

“Service charges at Auckland Rise are now 80% above what BxB estimated they would be at the point of sale.

"If the charges continue to increase at this rate, the properties will become unaffordable for residents and unsellable in the future. 

“Croydon Council need to do everything they can to support residents on Auckland Rise and back them in challenging the extortionate rise in fees.

"Whilst I am pleased that the Mayor of Croydon agreed to my request to meet with residents, I am disappointed that he refused to support the Lib Dem campaign to challenge unfair service charges, introduce commonhold and abolish ground rent.

“The Conservatives may have broken their promise to end leasehold but I will continue to call for an end to this out of date practice.”

When approached for comment a spokesperson for Croydon Council said: “Service charges for shared ownership and private homes on the development at Auckland Rise are determined by the estate management company.

"There has been a recent increase, largely due to insurance costs rising significantly over the last two years. We have listened to the concerns raised by Auckland Rise residents and will investigate further.”

Principle Estate Management and Brick by Brick were approached for comment but failed to respond in time for publication.