A LABOUR MP has called for an 'urgent review' of massive bills facing leaseholders in north Westminster.
Karen Buck, MP for Regent's Park and Kensington North, told the House of Commons that the Government's Decent Homes initiative – which ensures homes are warm, weather-proof and with reasonably modern facilities - had transformed social housing in her constituency.
But speaking last Tuesday, she added that she still had concerns for leaseholders facing bills of tens of thousands of pounds for work on their properties.
She said: "The losers among residents are leaseholders who have bought properties that are now subject to major works bills, in some cases of £60,000.
"These are works that, in many cases, the leaseholders are totally unable to pay for."
Westminster Council's housing arm CityWest Homes told leaseholders on the Warwick and Brindley Estates they must pay bills of around £58,000, although the exact figure will not be known until the work has been completed.
Ms Buck, addressing the parliamentary under-secretary for the department of communities and local government Iain Wright, then asked him to urgently review the situation.
Mr Wright said Ms Buck had been right to 'hassle him to death' on the issue.
He told the Commons: "It's important that we provide targeted help. There is a range of powers in place.
"The Housing and Regeneration Act 2008 provided interest-free loans and deferred payments for leaseholders in the situation that she describes.
"But I'm continuing to look at the issue and I will keep her [Karen Buck] informed."
A spokeswoman for CityWest Homes added that leaseholders facing major works bills can access a wide variety of payment options.
She added: "Subject to specific criteria, for example, CityWest Homes can provide a loan from the Council if the lessee cannot obtain a private loan or mortgage, or defer interest (or waive interest in certain circumstances).
"Prior to the estimated bills for Warwick and Brindley being issued in August 2008, we made special effort to contact and assess those we had identified as potentially being eligible for our deferred payment scheme and we held drop-in sessions or made home visits in these cases.
"If aware we will also refer leaseholders who are having difficulty in paying charges to an independent debt advice organisation."