Residents at a Margate tower block say they will struggle to stay in their homes after being issued with rent rises which they say are between 25% and 36%.
Freshwater Property Management Limited, which holds the lease for the 18 floor (plus roof level) block through its company Metropolitan Property Realizations Limited, owns 36 rental flats and has issued the rent rises to its tenants.
The hike, which will begin in October, means some tenants will have to find an average £250 extra each month to pay their rent.
One tenant, who did not want to be named for fear her tenancy would not be renewed, said: “All the Freshwater tenants got an email about the rent increases.
“It says my tenancy is about to expire and that I have 14 days to respond to the email or they have the right to withdraw my tenancy renewal offer, so could evict me.
“It’ll be more than £200 per month extra and although it will be an average price for the area it is a big hike to do in one go.
“Some of the tenants are single parents and will struggle with the increase. We all knew there would be a rent rise but to go up by more than £200 in one go is insane.
“People are in shock but there is nothing written legally about how much they can raise the rent by and there isn’t a cap.
“It’s catch 22, try and pay or be evicted but then you can’t be housed here as the council is sending people to places like Medway for temporary housing.”
Margate mayor and former Arlington tenant Cllr Rob Yates says Freshwater, otherwise called Daejan Holdings, have £881m of residential property in the UK and have begun “maximising rental income in Arlington House by demanding rent increases of 35% or asking their tenants to move out.”
He adds that the company paid their directors bonuses of £1.5m in 2022.
He also points a list of issues that tenants and leaseholders in the bock have faced, including:
- In 2019 agent Trinity Estates were given notice to quit following problems including a court case dispute with flat holder John Moss over withheld service charges. Mr Moss clinched a victory when the landlord was ordered to pay back £105,641.90 to all of the block’s lessees
- The serving of an enforcement notice by the fire service for fifteen fire safety failures, also in 2019.
- In 2021 residents endured two weeks with no working lifts
- In 2022 serious water leaks with water running down the corridor walls
- This year the lifts were again out of again and in May a ‘Substantial’ risk to life was concluded in a fire risk assessment of the building
- Kent Fire and Rescue Services has again served a notice requiring that all matters be addressed.
- The building has recently had water outages with water pumps breaking down, and a planning application to replace all sliding windows with plastic tilt and turn windows receiving over 70 complaints.
- There are also complaints that the company has still not opened the empty shops under the building
Cllr Yates said: “We know the rental system is broken in the UK when property management companies like Daejan Holdings openly describe their business strategy as being ‘to maximise net rental income and thereby enhance capital values’ without mention of fair rents, the safety of the buildings or the welfare of their tenants.
“The market rate of rent in Margate is not a target to be met, especially by landlords who fail to safely manage their assets on behalf of residents. We need a system that stops rewarding rent extraction and rewards the right outcomes such as well maintained buildings and fair rent.
“As a previous tenant of this block who has witnessed (issues) at the building first-hand I feel it is my duty and obligation to speak out about this.”
Freshwater has been contacted for comment but is yet to reply.
As of September 4 Thanet District Council had 238 households in temporary accommodation and around 1604 applicants on the housing waiting list.
Thanet council is facing a rapid growth in the number of people becoming homeless and predicts demand for accommodation will continue to grow due to rising rents, the cost of living crisis and courts clearing eviction notice backlogs.
For some people becoming homeless will mean being reliant on the council to provide temporary accommodation so they don’t end up sleeping rough or sofa surfing.
Households that find themselves at risk of homelessness should contact the Housing Options team as soon as possible so they can try and prevent them from having to leave their current home.
Councillor Helen Whitehead, Thanet council’s Cabinet Member for Housing, expressed concerns relating to rent inflation overall across Thanet, and its impact on the health and stability of residents.
She said: “The cost of living crisis, when combined with the popularity of Margate and Thanet as a whole, creates unique challenges and extraordinary stresses for residents. With a lack of central controls relating to private rent, the external markets and external financial pressures determine rent; and with a low Local Housing Allowance, also set by Central Government, and interest rate increases affecting all aspects of housing, property within Thanet is no longer affordable for many residents.
“We are doing all we can to support those who are facing rent increases or homelessness, against a backdrop of exceptionally challenging conditions. We are increasing our production rate of genuinely affordable housing by over 400%, with 51 units already approved, as well as increasing our in-house temporary accommodation; we will continue to increase the supply of genuinely affordable housing, support residents, and push for increases to the Local Housing Allowance, to ensure that Thanet is affordable for all members of our community.”
Thanet council Housing Team 01843 577277