HOMEOWNERS on a new estate said they are being stung by spiralling costs to have its small communal gardens maintained.
Residents living in Stainton Mews, a Taylor Wimpey development in the picturesque village of Stainton near Middlesbrough, say they are being charged too much to have a hedge and a little patch of grass cut as well as a few shrubbery beds maintained.
A legally-binding clause in their deeds that they agreed to when buying the 22 new properties stated a compulsory Annual Management Charge (AMC) of £82 plus VAT to be reviewed after five years.
For the first year they were charged £103 by Greenbelt, a company which manages 450 developments across the UK.
But dwellers were shocked when the second bill, for more than double the original amount, landed on their doormats demanding £186.
Anxious homeowner, Dominic Dunn, said that when he called Greenbelt Group to dispute the bill he was told that unless he paid up within seven days bailiffs and his mortgage lender could be informed.
Following intervention by Taylor Wimpey, a replacement bill of £103 was sent out for the period 2014/2015.
However, Greenbelt said it had undercharged and would now recoup its lost fees after five years.
A letter it sent out to residents this month explaining the amended billing process, said: “Unfortunately it is clear that the initial AMC we charged did not reflect the actual costs we incurred during that billing year. This resulted in us incurring a loss in that year which, as a goodwill gesture, we have fully absorbed.”
It added: “The loss incurred during year one will now be recovered at the end of year five along with any additional losses incurred up to that point.”
A recently formed residents’ group want to opt out of using Greenbelt and either have Middlesbrough Council adopt the communal areas or employ a local gardening firm.
“Greenbelt said the reason for the increase was they had been called out several times by residents," said Mr Dunn. "But if you are reporting a job that hasn’t been done in the first place why should we be paying for it a second time as well as a £35 inspection fee? It is like a stealth tax.”
A spokesman for Greenbelt and Taylor Wimpey said that if residents wanted to choose a different land management company they would first need to find an alternative body to take ownership of the land.
“Greenbelt will always look to remain competitive and provide value for money for the service it provides,” he said.
He added: “Greenbelt is happy to review the management and maintenance regimes as open space on the development matures, as long as it does not compromise any planning obligations and all the residents are in agreement.”