Northumberland County Council is considering making representations to the Government regulator after a social landlord revealed plans to hit its tenants with a bill for grounds maintenance.
From April, Isos Housing is introducing the contentious service charge, which is aimed at its residents in Northumberland, including in areas such as Hadston and Widdrington. It will cost each tenant £1.58 per week – equating to just over £80 a year.
In a letter issued to tenants, Isos stated that anyone claiming housing benefit from the county council can also claim for the service charge.
However, the county council is urging residents not to assume that this is the case.
The council has claimed that Isos did not tell the authority of its intentions to introduce the service charge before writing to tenants to advise them of the new bill.
A county council spokesman said that the authority is now considering its options, including making representations to the Government regulator.
He said: “We have written to Isos about this issue and are awaiting their response. Once we have this we will be able to agree the next steps.”
However, Isos hopes the issue can be resolved amicably.
Coun Scott Dickinson, ward member for Druridge Bay, said: “Isos did not ask our benefit staff if these charges were eligible before issuing their letter. Our staff are of the opinion that this is not the case and we are asking tenants to note this and not make the assumption, as Isos have, that these new charges will be covered.”
County council Cabinet member Coun Allan Hepple added: “I am disappointed, not only in the charges, but in the way that Isos has acted without any dialogue.”
But an Isos spokesman said: “We are in dialogue with the county council about this matter and are hopeful it can be amicably resolved.”
Isos is introducing the charge ‘as a matter of fairness’, as its tenants in other areas have to pay for grounds maintenance. Isos adds that, from April, its residents’ rent will be reduced by one per cent, in line with a recent Government announcement, but has denied that the two are related.