London Tenants Federation calls out Town Hall over high service charges

Islington Town Hall. Photograph: Islington Council.

The London Tenants Federation (LTF) has called out the council over the level of its service charges for tenants, pointing to statistics showing weekly rates for new tenancies of £18.43.

While the figures are not representative of service charges across the borough’s housing stock, which are an average £12.44, the LTF research represents a call from the organisation for greater openness on how such charges are set.

Council rents and service charges combined increased by 77 per cent across London between 2002 and 2018, according to the LTF.

Haringey tenant Jacob Secker said: “We found such wide variations in service charges from borough to borough.

“It really did call into question for us whether all tenants are receiving the same value for money.

“We’d like to see more councils provide transparency on how they set their service charges, and greater scrutiny and leadership on this issue from Whitehall.”

It is understood that the LTF’s data is taken from submissions to the government by Islington based on annual lettings, with £18.43 being the average for 499 new tenancies in the borough, or 1.96 per cent of the council’s housing stock.

By comparison, neighbouring City of London’s average for the year was around three times lower than Islington’s at £5.70, with Camden offering rates of £8.69 and Hackney’s £12.36.

By adding service charges to rents levels, the LTF highlighted a £66.39 a week increase in rates since 2002/03, when councils were given the ability through rent restructuring to separate out the two charges rather than bundling them together.

The LTF added: “Islington council tenants are paying on average £13.60 more in rents and service charges than their Camden neighbours to the west and £18.20 more than their Hackney neighbours to the east.

“This hardly seems fairer or less confusing as rent restructuring promised to be.

“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 charges are not set in stone, with the rates varying depending on the level of service residents receive.

For instance, tenants getting their heating from a central communal heating system will have higher charges than those with their own boiler who pay for their own, with other charges going to fund CCTV and concierge services on estates.