Kathryn Ellis* can see positives in her shared ownership home. But problem neighbours are an issue. Kathryn can’t understand why her housing association isn’t doing more to tackle anti-social behaviour.
“I’m worried about my neighbour’s ongoing anti-social behaviour. It has a negative impact on my home life, and could cause problems if I decided to sell”
This is my second shared ownership house. I’m an optimist, so I can see there are some positives. For example, since buying my initial 40% share in 2013, open market rents have increased so much there is no way I could afford to rent privately now. If I had rented the whole time, I absolutely wouldn’t have gained any equity on a property. After I’ve paid off my mortgage I hope to sell up and downsize. But we will see….
Will my problem neighbours make it hard for me to sell?
For one thing, I’m worried about having to declare my next-door neighbour’s anti-social behaviour (ASB) when I come to sell. The first problem was dogs barking for hours and hours on end, I used a noise app to provide evidence. But my housing association literally did nothing, despite me chasing them repeatedly over a long period of time. I then became so unwell and couldn’t keep the pressure on them up, which is what is needed unfortunately. Thank goodness the neighbour wasn’t always at home. And eventually they moved out.
My housing association assured us the next tenant would be a sensitive let. But that’s not what happened. Now I have to put up with the intrusive smell of drugs in my home, as well as suspecting drug dealing and a host of related problems. Including another noisy dog!
A failure to tackle anti-social behaviour
Most of my neighbours – shared owners and social rent tenants – are lovely.
And, of course, you can get problem neighbours wherever you live. If it wasn’t the second time I’d experienced anti-social behaviour from someone next door, I would be more hopeful. But my housing association have just paid lip service so far, despite the involvement of my MP. I think part of the problem is that they don’t know what tools they have available to them to deal with anti-social behaviour. For example, they fail to issue notices at the appropriate times (Community Protection Notices, Good Neighbour Agreements, etc) which means they then can’t follow the process of escalation to court, if the behaviour continues. The notices are designed to be used at low levels to prevent problems and the impact ASB has on peoples lives, and lead to court action if breached.
Continuity of staff and following process is also lacking. And new members of staff don’t read the history before acting. My housing association also has a habit of closing cases, and ignoring my attempts to communicate with them; which goes against their own policies.
The hardest thing is knowing I could lose equity due to their inaction on anti-social behaviour. I’m not in the best position. I have always worked hard to maximise what I do have. But I’m a single, disabled mother who works part-time, so I can only do so much.
Anti-social behaviour isn’t the only problem
Annual rent increases
My lease states rent can increase by RPI + 0.5% each year. This year it’s gone up by 5.4% and it goes up every year without fail. The difficulty for me is that my wage hasn’t kept up with inflation for many years. But then again, right now, my rent is cheaper than private rents locally. So I try to keep it in perspective.
Repairs and maintenance
Nine years down the line, more things are starting to need repairs or maintenance. I’m quite handy so I’ve kept on top of it so far. But inevitably there will be more and more to do as the house gets older. Which is a worry, as I’m liable for 100% of service charges despite only having a 40% share.
I’m pleased that government reforms mean housing associations have to pay for repairs for the first ten years. But I think this only applies to future homebuyers, so the changes may not help me. Also, when I bought, shared owners had a one-year guarantee period from the house builder whereas private outright buyers got five years. That really annoyed me. Especially as quite a few things went wrong in the early years (the bathroom fan, bathroom light, sockets, the oven wall switch, and the window mechanism to name a few).
At least I was fortunate in having a 125-year lease. So, when I come to consider my options at retirement, there will still be around 90 years left. But I’m very aware of the cost of extending a lease. I just hope that proposed leasehold reforms are fully implemented by then.
*Name has been changed.