How residents in a new Harborough housing estate are fighting back against what they believe are 'extortionate hidden fleeceholding fees'

Outraged residents on a new estate in Market Harborough claim they are being forced to pay “extortionate fleeceholding” fees.

Thursday, 9th January 2020, 4:19 pm
Updated Thursday, 9th January 2020, 4:20 pm
Aiden Perks, Lara Raffaelli, Roy Saint and Malcolm Solly.

Furious householders on the growing Farndon Fields scheme hit out as they slammed management agency Chamonix Estates.

They are being backed by Harborough MP Neil O’Brien - who branded ‘fleeceholding’ charges “a terrible industry norm”.

Lara Raffaelli, 53, of Angell Drive, told the Harborough Mail: “We are being driven round the bend by these extortionate hidden fleeceholding fees.

“I’d sell my home today if I could and get out – because this is making my life hell.

“I’m going into battle for at least 14 other residents here as well as myself.

“And we are just the tip of an enormous iceberg.”

The fuming South African-born editor added: “This is simple - we are fighting for justice, truth and integrity.

“We are standing up for the ordinary man and woman.

“I’ve lived here almost four years.

“But if I’d known what lay ahead and how we were going to be treated I wouldn’t have touched this house with a bargepole.”

Lara said she bought her four-bed property from Barratt Homes for £250,000 in March 2016.

“We were told we’d have to pay just £26 a year to lease the driveway.

“We were then told by administration company Chamonix Estates we’d have to pay insurance for our garage as well.

“The bills got bigger and bigger,” said Lara, who lives with her partner Lee, 21-year-old daughter and mother Carole-Ann, 79.

“We were told out of the blue in 2017 the garage wasn’t ours – it was a total shock.

“Now Chamonix have just sent me a bill for estate and maintenance charges for £592 for 2020.

“They are supposed to cut the grass, clean our windows and maintain the estate.

“But it’s a total joke because I work at home and never see them doing anything!

“I’ve written to Chamonix to complain on behalf of all of us but we never get anywhere.

“We’re all suffering a massive nightmare because the whole of Farndon Fields is affected – hundreds of people are being hit.

“The amount of cash we’re being asked to pay is bad enough but there’s a crucial principle at stake here too.

“Why should we have to dig so deep when we get nothing back?

“We are all caught in a vicious trap and it feels as if we’re being mugged.”

Retired office manager Roy Saint, 63, of Freshman Way, said: “We’ve got two parking spaces in a common area and were told we had to fork out an annual fee.

“The bill kept rising to £178 and then they demanded another £62 because they had made a loss.

“How’s that our fault for heaven’s sake?”

His next-door neighbour Malcolm Solly, 34, a purchase manager for AP Racing, said: “I bought my house because I thought I could put electricity in my garage.

“But I can’t because I’ve got to run a cable over someone else’s land and I cannot discover for the life of me who owns it.

“It’s so frustrating it’s untrue.”

South African Aiden Perks, 38, said: “I’ve only got a two-bed coach house but I’ve been told to shell out about £800 altogether for the next 12 months.

“We only found out just before we signed up to buy that this is a leasehold property.

“As I understand it I own the house but not the land it’s built on.

“I’ve had enough and I want to sell up by the end of 2021.”

Local MP Neil O’Brien, who takes a special interest in property and planning issues, told the Mail: “I really feel for these poor people.

“This is another terrible norm for the housing industry.

“It’s yet another example of opaque charges that homeowners are being forced to pay.

“Rapacious little companies are sending out bills demanding money for work they haven’t done.”

The Conservative MP vowed to support the Farndon Fields residents’ battle for justice.

“I’ve written to Chamonix Estates demanding an explanation.

“I want to know what’s going on.

“This kind of practice is totally unacceptable but it’s a classic problem across the industry,” said Mr O’Brien.

Adrian Povey, a director of Chamonix Estates, said: “We all like to know what we are paying for.

“But often people don’t look at all the detail in the grand excitement of moving into a new house.

“Maybe 5-10 per cent don’t understand what they are signing up for.”

Based at Hyde Hall Farm, Sandon, Herts, Mr Povey added: “Every private courtyard on Farndon Fields is individually costed.

“But the vast majority of people don’t see what they pay for.

“Residents are paying for the likes of electricity and public liability insurance.

“People are given a copy of the budget and told what they’ll have to pay in estate and maintenance charges when they move in.

“In effect they are paying a local rate.”

He said they are now setting up meetings with incensed residents before the end of January in a bid to clear the air.

“We’d like to talk to everyone on Farndon Fields to explain again what we charge for and what we do.

“We try to make the whole process as transparent as possible and we want to put people’s minds at rest,” said Mr Povey, who said Chamonix Estates manages about 80 estates regionally.

A spokesperson for Barratt Homes Northampton said: “As was made clear to all purchasers, there are maintenance and management charges covering the upkeep of the public open space and communal areas around the development.

“However, if the residents are unhappy with the level of charges or the service provided by the management company they are able to vote to change the management company at any point through their residents’ committee.”

A Harborough District Council spokesman said: “The decision to not routinely adopt open space was agreed as part of the preparation of the Open Spaces Strategy 2016 to 2021 – which was adopted in January 2016.

“The Strategy states that the council will encourage the local management of green spaces wherever possible.

“Parish Councils – or similar – are generally best placed to adopt land which primarily serves the local community.

“The opportunity to adopt such land, should the developer not opt to manage the open space through a management company, will be given to the Parish Council in the first instance.

“Harborough District Council will continue to adopt new public green spaces which have a strategic value – i.e. will attract visitors from across the District and beyond, unless it specifically recommends that another body is better placed to manage the site.

“The district council will consider adopting open spaces, which do not fall into the category of Strategic Open Space, but this is not a requirement.

“The council also has no powers to enforce the transfer of public open space to the local authority should the developer wish to maintain it.

“The council will be reviewing and updating its Open Spaces Strategy, with the new Strategy expected to be ready for adoption in 2021.”