Hyde Group admits ‘moral’ failure in raising service charges

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HYDE may not be the chosen housing provider much longer for Chichester District Council, it has been claimed.

Just days after councillor Julie Tassell said the council could soon be looking for a new housing association, a scrutiny report was released where Hyde admitted that ‘morally’ it should have consulted with residents before raising service charges by up to 1,000 per cent.

“Chichester District Council aren’t happy with the way Hyde have been behaving. They’ve been putting up service charges and people can’t afford to pay,” Cllr Tassell said at a Funtington Parish Council meeting last Wednesday.

She said the housing group was currently being investigated by the council, adding it recently moved its head office to London.

“The overview and scrutiny committee are taking a strong line at examining the way they’re behaving.

“You can’t really manage properties here from London but it’s being looked at and they’re watching everything and scrutinising them so we may change our housing association.”

Days after this meeting, a task and finish group set up to look at Hyde released its current findings, ahead of an overview and scrutiny meeting on Tuesday.

In it, the housing association denies any wrongdoing legally.

However, it has admitted ethically the service charge rise could have been handled differently.

“Hyde explained that the company had no legal requirement to carry out consultation with tenants prior to issuing service charge statements,” said the report, which was headed up by independent councillor Andrew Shaxson.

“However, upon pressing they agreed that morally they should have consulted with tenants.”

The service charge rise came as a surprise to the council and it was not discussed with housing officers beforehand, although it was raised at a later meeting on March 10.

“The first indication tenants had to the hike in service charges was receipt of their invoice statement,” said the report.

“Hyde advised that they had not carried out an impact assessment or put in place any mitigation for tenants’ hardship and difficulty in paying the increased rents.”

The committee has been asked to recommend the head of housing and environment services writes to the Hyde Group setting out concerns.

It also wants a ‘full and urgent’ review of blocks where tenants say incorrect charges have been applied and a full report next January.

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