Whether he plans to take steps to help tackle significant increases in service charges for leaseholders and social housing tenants.
Service charges must be reasonable and works and services must be of a reasonable standard. We will empower leaseholders by legislating, so that service charges are more transparent. We are encouraging registered providers of social housing to limit service charge increases for social housing tenants to 7% or less.
I have been told by constituents who live in housing association properties that not only their rents but their service charges will be going up this year. One constituent has told me that their service charge will increase from £15.18 per week to £127.74—over £5,800 per year more for their service charge. These constituents are already struggling at the top of their budgets to accommodate increased heating and living costs. The Government have placed a cap on the maximum that their rent can be raised by, but that is surely arbitrary if the service charge can be increased by such a drastic amount.
As I have said, service charges are payable only to the extent that the costs have been reasonably incurred. If the hon. Lady’s social housing tenant believes that the costs have not been reasonably incurred, I really encourage them to go to the housing ombudsman. Similarly, leaseholders can also challenge any service charges through the first-tier tribunal.
Following on from Sarah Olney, although it is welcome that the Government have capped rent rises below inflation for those in the social rented sector, residents of Hyndburn and Haslingden, and across Lancashire, are also facing rises in service charges—increases of up to 11%—so can the Government set out what support is available for those who cannot afford a combined rent and service charge increase?
Obviously, we are very sympathetic to those who are feeling cost of living pressures, which is why the Treasury put together the £37 billion package at the autumn statement, followed by a further £26 billion. Service charges should be reasonable, they should reflect costs and there should be access to the ombudsman, as there is.