LEASEHOLDERS on an Andover estate are at their wits’ end after their housing provider landlord has issued them with maintenance bills nearing £40,000 EACH.

Kingsway Gardens residents are worried they could lose their homes since Aster Group has hand delivered the exorbitant bills of up to £37,000 for the coming financial year, with payment due early next month.

The demands for payment are despite Aster, as the freeholder of Saxon, Stuart, York, Tudor and Atholl Courts, taking the homeowners to tribunal for a decision on necessary works and who is responsible for payment.

As previously reported by the Advertiser, the leaseholders received notice before Christmas of Aster’s intention to enter into a £3.4m maintenance contract with Stepnell Limited following a survey of required works two years earlier.

The housing company also gave notice that they would be passing the costs on to residents with estimates of up to £27,000 per property exclusive of VAT and a 15 per cent administration charge.

The costs have now risen by around £10,000 with tax and administration costs.

Leaseholders do not dispute that the work needs doing but have argued their liability for the costs when they believe much of the work is due to Aster’s historic neglect.

They have also questioned how much of the work is essential and what the 15 per cent administration charge, of around £500,000, will cover.

Aster has now confirmed that the maintenance contract has been signed despite pending legal proceedings and it is understood that scaffolding is being erected at Saxon Court.

Struggling to pay the extortionate costs and unable to sell or remortgage their homes with the costs hanging over them the leaseholders fear they will lose their properties.

A five-year management plan has been offered to those homeowners living in the properties but for charges of £37,000 it works out at more than £600 per month on top of mortgage and living costs.

For those who rent their property out however, they have been told that they need to pay in full in 12 monthly instalments – up to £3,000 per month.

Saxon Court leaseholder Tina Turner was forced to rent her flat out after her sale fell through due to the impending works and costs from Aster.

Having been issued with a bill for the forthcoming financial year of £31,500 she faces paying £2,625 per month in maintenance charges.

Describing the impact of Aster’s actions, she said: “The stress over the last few years has left me frazzled, it’s unrelenting.

“All my plans have been put on hold, there have been no holidays for the last four years apart from visits to friends and my children.

"In the last year in particular it has affected my sleep pattern which has a knock-on effect all round in daily life, impacting on my energy and concentration levels.”

Pensioner Angela Thorpe bought her Tudor Court flat with an interest-only mortgage for 10 years with the intention of selling the property and being left with a sum of money for her retirement.

With her final mortgage payment due in the coming months she is unable to sell the property with the charges hanging over her and on a pension she will struggle to pay over £500 per month in maintenance charges over five years.

She said: “I don’t know what I’m going to do, they have railroaded us into a position where we’ve got nowhere to go. I’ve got nowhere to turn.

“The worry just never goes away, it is constantly at the back of your mind. When you have worked so hard for so long and you end up like this it is demoralising.”

Chair of the Kingsway Gardens Leaseholders’ Association, Gary Rayner, said: “People are in a bad way. Aster are making people more stressed and worried, they have really turned the screw and people are at their wits’ end.

“They are rightfully concerned, this money is due when the work has not even started and these are still only estimates.”

While waiting for a date for the tribunal, the association requested that Aster enter into arbitration but they have since refused.

Andover town councillor Andy Fitchet, who has been supporting the leaseholders, added: “If Aster continues along this path we will see nearly all the residents default on their payments, some at nearly £3,000 per month, and then either the residents evicted or taken to court for payment.

"This is not only immoral, but I believe illegal, to pursue this course of action before a tribunal has agreed that Aster can pass these costs on to the leaseholders.”

Aster has confirmed to this paper that the current demands for payment do include VAT and administration fees although not explicitly detailed in the individual budgets.

Responding to why they have issued the bills despite taking leaseholders to tribunal, an Aster Group spokesperson said: “We are required to invoice for known expenditure at the start of the financial year.

"Remedial work on all five blocks in Kingsway Gardens is essential in order to maintain the buildings.

"Stepnell Limited have been appointed to carry out the work required and a contract to this effect has been signed.”