‘Stop our rent now,’ say sinkhole victims – ‘No,’ says landlord

The Hemel Hempstead sinkhole. Courtesy of SKM Studio - Airscape Division: www.skmstudio.co.uk
The Hemel Hempstead sinkhole. Courtesy of SKM Studio - Airscape Division: www.skmstudio.co.uk

The people who lived next-door to the Hemel Hempstead sinkhole say they should not still be having to pay rent when they are not living in their homes.

This website recently reported that people from 30 of the Oatridge Gadens properties have still not returned home - three months after the cavity appeared and was filled in

About 16 of them are staying in hotels and a similar number are in rented accommodation organised by Hightown and its insurer’s loss adjuster.

Just 14 of them of them are living permanently back on the estate, which Hightown Praetorian & Churches Housing Association had built in 2008.

People from around four of the properties are staying with family and friends.

Now some Oatridge Gardens neighbours say a clause in their leases states that if their homes or communal areas are damaged or destroyed, rent should be cut or suspended.

David Ketley, who is currently staying in a hotel, said: “Hightown refuse to accept this clause even though it is in their contract.

“I for one would like to warn anyone considering a purchase with Hightown that they do not follow their own legally binding contracts.

“I have gone so far as to withhold my rent until there is clarification.”

He said tenants’ rent partly pays for the upkeep of the private Oatridge Gardens estate, which contains 24 flats and 24 houses.

But this isn’t being completed at the moment, he said.

He added that maintenance of the road – which is included within the rent costs – is not being done as it has been partly destroyed.

Hemel Hempstead MP Mike Penning previously said that Hightown is ‘morally in the doghouse’ for making the neighbours pay rent when they are not living in the properties.

But Hightown spokesman Emma Crump said: “The rent paid by shared owners covers the subsidised loan on the share of the property they have not bought and should continue to be paid, just as they need to continue with their mortgage payments.

“We have taken legal advice on the clause in the lease referred to by Mr Ketley.

“Mike Penning MP has taken advice from the regulator, the Homes & Communities Agency, and we are quite clear that this clause does not apply in these circumstances.”

Of the 48 homes on the estate, 36 have been sold through shared ownership.

The sinkhole appeared on Saturday, February 15, and was filled in within a week.

The news follows a recent row between neighbours in Belton Road, Berkhamsted, and Hightown about who is responsible for repairing potholes in the street