RESIDENTS of an apartment complex in Donaghadee have been hit with huge bills of £36,000 for refurbishments, causing sleepless nights among pensioners as old as 103.
Leaseholders living in the Mount Royal apartments have spoken of their shock when Radius Housing revealed the total bill for residents of the 34 apartments on the Millisle Road complex was £2.1m.
Residents have been trying to figure a way out of the situation which they say has caused great ‘upheaval’ and said though they were left ‘speechless’ after the bombshell, they have ‘now found our voice’, according to a statement from the Mount Royal Leaseholders Committee.
Residents are not only facing a bill of £36,000, but also a rise in their service charge.
Leaseholders living at the apartments, some of which enjoy panoramic views over the Irish Sea, said Radius used £24,420 of leaseholders’ money for a survey on proposed works, but have yet to provide residents with a copy of the survey. The money came from the Mount Royal sinking fund, common in leasehold properties, which is a fund set aside to cover future major works.
Residents said Radius told them essential works had to be carried out for health and safety reasons ‘but have still not provided details of which health and safety rules and regulations are required for the work to take place’. They added that their leases state they are required to contribute a ‘reasonable’ amount towards such works, but believe ’75% is hardly reasonable’.
The householders say the ‘exorbitant’ costs include a ‘contractor preliminaries’ fee of £101,951, which equates to roughly £2,600 per household and that is simply ‘morally reprehensible’ and ‘unjustified’ to expect people to pay these costs.
“The details of the amount they were expecting us to contribute towards the refurbishment will never be forgotten by any of us and left people feeling anxious and upset over the Christmas period,” according to a statement from the Leaseholders Committee.
“When the figure of £36,000 per apartment was given we all just gasped,” said the statement..
Radius’s bill is understood to cover items such as new fire doors for each apartment, as well as electrical rewiring and new decor to transform the blocks from looking like an ‘old-fashioned nursing home’ into a modern, independent living space for people as young as 55.
Residents have been given three payments options: selling their apartments to Radius and renting them back at market rental prices; paying the £36,000 off when work commences or over three years, or deferring payment until their apartments are sold, they die or move to a nursing home, leaving Radius to take the £36,000 from the purchase price.
Resident Fred Finch, who is 80, is adamant he can’t pay the fee, nor does he want to defer his payment, as his daughter would lose out on her inheritance.
“I get notes everyday from people saying they can’t sleep because of it,” said Mr Finch who said the residents were being put through ‘mental torture’.
Christine Wallace admitted she was shocked at the £36,000 bill. “What this has done is divide us and that’s stressful. Instead of us all living in harmony it’s causing divisions.
“The £36,000 certainly took us all by surprise and that’s what the problem is, it’s too expensive; I would have expected something closer to £10,000.
“When we retired here we expected to live out our days in peace and harmony but this has caused the opposite,” she said.
One woman, in her late 70s, said ‘there are several others who can pay and want to pay’, because ‘we want it to be resolved’.
“They said if we can get agreement then the repairs would start in June or July. Some of the works really needs to get underway,” she said.
One resident said the current state of the building ‘is putting off potential new buyers’, adding that otherwise the complex is situated in handsome gardens with stunning sea views.
“It looks like an old-people’s nursing home where the old people sit and drool, and it isn’t – we’re young old people,” quipped one sprightly elderly resident.
Donaghadee councillor Mark Brooks said he met with the residents and ‘shares their concerns’.
He said he believed Radius Housing ‘has certain legal requirements that they must maintain but that residents feel that ‘there doesn’t seem to be any alternative and feel that they are hemmed in and feel trapped’.