CONCERNED Skipperstone residents fear they may ‘find themselves out on the street’ after a massive rent hike is set to almost double their monthly bill.
Some local residents were ‘shocked’ to receive notification from Neill Estate Agents that their rent was to be increased to £575 for a one bedroom property and £725 for a two bedroom property.
Scores of residents were informed the rent hike would begin in October after the complex was purchased by a new owner, Skipperstone LLP, who are undertaking a ‘significant programme of investment and upgrading over the next few months’.
Local politicians united in support of residents during a visit to the housing area which is believed to have over 100 properties, with an estimated 60 residents affected by the rent increase.
Residents shared their fears about how they are going to afford the increased rents, highlighted ongoing problems with damp and drainage and hit out at the lack of maintenance over the years.
One Skipperstone resident, who is being relocated to a new property in the complex, has speculated that their home and a number of others are to be demolished to make way for a supermarket area.
Local resident Kevin McDowell feared he may to ‘live in my car’ after he learned of the rent increase. “I have lived here for five or six years and the rent was £66 a week, it has now gone up to £137.50. I have just bought a car but how am I going to afford it?”
He spoke of the distress felt by many of his neighbours saying: “There are lots of people crying their eyes out. I thought ‘I can live in my car’, I am going to have nothing left (after I pay my rent).”
Mr McDowell said: “It is not very fair to people who have worked all their days and may find themselves out on the street.”
Wendy McVeagh and her sister Heather McConnell are neighbours and are being relocated within the complex as their homes are due to be demolished. “I was told that I have to move out of my home but they are giving us a year’s grace and we will have our normal rent,” said Ms McVeagh.
She has lived in her home for over six years and said she doesn’t want to move.
“I am happy where I am, but I have no choice but to go. Since we have moved in we have put a fence up but there are still problems with damp in the bathroom. It hasn’t been touched in years. Everything that has been done in this house has been done by us.”
As to how she will pay her rent in the future, Ms McVeagh said: “Anything you have, any savings are going to have to go on rent.”
Ms McConnell said it is ridiculous to be given just four weeks to move. “I don’t know how they can get away with it,” she said.
Bobby West and his wife have been living in the Skipperstone complex for the past nine years and had a ‘terrible shock’ when they returned home from holiday to discover their rent increase notification letter.
“We came home on Saturday night from holiday,” said Mr West. “It was a terrible shock, especially for my wife who was meant to get an operation but her blood pressure has hit the roof.”
The Wests are now facing a rent increase from £341 to £725 per month. Said Mr West: “ I feel disgusted and disheartened, they are destroying people’s lives.”
Brian Graham, has been living in a two bedroom flat for the past nine years, and expressed his concerns about the rent.
“I don’t mind paying rent for something that’s worth it, it is not worth £625 a month. It is a two bedroom flat but the damp is unreal, the walls are black and the bathroom hasn’t been changed for years.”
Another resident, who asked not to be named, said he had invested over £3,000 in the property he has called home for the past six years.
He said his ongoing flooding concerns at the rear of his property have fallen on deaf ears. “It has been reported I don’t know how many times in the last month. Any time I turn on the washing machine or the shower, it floods.
“When the rent was £300 a month you don’t mind but £600 a month for this? It is crazy.”