A GROUP of leaseholders on an estate in Andover have said their lives have been 'completely destroyed' after their housing provider has told them they must pay back bills of more than £30,000 each.

Leaseholders of flats in Kingsway Gardens have been locked in a battle with the Aster Group for around seven years over work to address structural issues and the ongoing maintenance of the buildings.

Now, some residents say they are being 'threatened' with court action if they don't pay.

Neighbours went through a tribunal with Aster to determine if some of the maintenance contract should be paid by leaseholders and if work on the blocks was necessary and reasonable.

In 2018 the tribunal determined that some of the work highlighted by Aster needed to be carried out but it was ordered that the overall cost of the work should be reduced.

READ MORE: Aster residents hit with £26K bill each for repairs

Andover Advertiser:

Following this leaseholders' bills were recalculated and varied depending on the extent of the works required on their block. 

When the work was completed, Aster said it carried out negotiations with the contractor which carried out the work to challenge the additional costs it was billing as a result of further work and other delays.

Aster disputed the contractor's costs which meant it was able to save over £470,000 overall for residents, with the final agreed cost being £3,498,985.85.

The tribunal also deemed Aster had acted within the law when consulting some leaseholders of the expected work, despite concerns from neighbours that there had not been enough discussion.

Despite challenges from residents, many have been left to pay extortionate bills, with some saying they cannot afford to pay. 

Aster has told the Advertiser that it has set up payment plans with a number of residents. 

Peter Aylett, 57, has owned his flat in Kingsway Gardens since 1991. He said that he now rents it out to someone else and has paid off the mortgage.

Mr Alyett said that he was told he must pay back £31,000 for the work and is now faced with a bill of £738 each month. This bill includes the charges for the work and his service charge.

He said: "The stress is through the roof now and it is effecting my family life. I also feel like I can't sell the property because they (Aster) have made it unsellable.

"A lot of the people that have been faced with a bill are retired and they can't pay it. People just can't move on with their lives, this has been going on for seven years now."

He said he has been left feeling "furious", adding: "I have never been in debt in my entire life and I have always paid my bills and now I am faced with this when I have already paid off my mortgage."

Andover Advertiser: Leaseholders Peter Aylett, Jamie Pearman and Julie RaynerLeaseholders Peter Aylett, Jamie Pearman and Julie Rayner (Image: Contributed)

SEE ALSO: Kingsway Gardens residents win Aster court battle over fees

Jamie Pearman lived in the his flat for around 11 years and said he has a bill of £37,000, of which he believes he still owes at least £17,000.

The 51-year-old said it has "completely destroyed his life" and every time he gets a letter from Aster "his heart just stinks".

The father-of-two said he felt so depressed that he has moved out of the property and hopes to sell.

He said: "When it all first happened I was in a state of shock and I just thought 'they can't do that'. I was just in a really bad state."

John Hyde now rents out his flat but said he is faced with a bill of around £36,000. He said it is "financially stressful" meaning he has had to dip into his savings.

The 60-year-old told the Advertiser he currently pays a bill of £665 a month.

"I have lost the will to live," he added.

Despite residents concerns an Aster Group spokesperson said it is "working closely" with residents to reach "the right repayment option for their individual circumstances".

They added: “The First Tier Tribunal, which was determined in 2018, reduced the amount payable by the leaseholders for work that they deemed was unnecessary. All of the charges that the tribunal decided leaseholders did not have to pay were removed from their accounts in 2018.

“In addition, the overall cost of the major works was reduced following negotiations with our contractor where we were successful in bringing the overall cost of the works down by over £470,000 on behalf of our customers.

“The vast majority have since either paid in full or have a payment arrangement in place. We have kept in regular contact with all customers and have provided information about financial wellbeing support available to them.

“A number of homes have been successfully sold in recent months despite the current difficult housing market.”