Barking and Dagenham council tenants' fees have almost doubled over past 15 years
PUBLISHED: 07:00 02 October 2019
The combined fee for rent and service charges in Barking and Dagenham has doubled on average over the past 15 years, a new report has found.
The sum jumped by 95 per cent, according to the London Tenants Federation (LTF) which looked into service charges in the capital. The average increase from 2002/03 to 2017/18 in London was 77pc.
But Barking and Dagenham still has the ninth lowest combined rate of all the 32 London boroughs and the City of London - £111 for average weekly rent and service charges. The borough with the highest rate was Westminster at £135.
A council spokeswoman pointed out council rents have also decreased by 1pc every year for the past four years.
Service charges pay for the upkeep of communal areas of buildings. They used to be part of overall rent, but councils were given the option to separate them by the Labour government in 2002. The change means money collected from the charges can be used for things other than housing.
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The LTF's report was supported by the poverty charity Trust for London and community grant-makers the Tudor Trust. It finishes: "We're concerned that service charges, now a significant factor dictating overall housing costs (separate to and alongside rents) are being set with minimal control in place and pretty much hidden away from public scrutiny at the national level."
The renter's group said its members across the capital have seen little consultation on charges and aren't getting enough information to tell whether they are getting value for money.
But a council spokeswoman insisted charges in Barking and Dagenham are reasonable and take into account tenants' feedback.
"The council seeks to recover the full cost of the services it provides to residents in line with good practice. We review services and the level of charges annually at cabinet taking into account the feedback from residents.
"A more detailed review of service charges will be completed in partnership with residents over the coming 18 months as part of a wider review of tenancy conditions.
"Barking and Dagenham is pleased to offer one of the lowest rents in London."