EXCLUSIVE: Thousands of tenants due refund as housing association landlords agree to hand over water bill discount cash

Tens of thousands of residents of an estate have been told they will get a refund on their water bills after a discount to their landlord was not passed on to them.

Thousands of 1,372 families who live on the St Martin’s Estate in Brixton have been told they will get thousands back after overpaying a string of South London housing associations.

Other estates where residents could qualify include families on the Clapham Park and Moorlands Estates, in Brixton Hill and Brixton respectively. They have 1,600 and 700 tenants respectively.

Former tenants of the landlords, Metropolitan – now Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing – will also be entitled to money back after it took payment of Thames Water bills alongside rent.

But other housing associations such as Optivo, Notting Hill Genesis, L&Q, Wandle and Peabody could also be affected, amid claims their residents also paid for their water by the same method.

The cash bonus for St Martin’s has been triggered by court cases against town halls which negotiated a discount for collecting the money – but did not hand the cost cut on to their residents.

Southwark conceded it had to cough up for tenants in 2016 – but Lambeth went as far as the High Court before conceding last month.

Now hundreds of tenants are demanding their money back – and in some cases it will run to thousands.

Dennis Jones, who lives on the St Martin’s Estate, tried to claim a refund as long ago as 2018 – but was told his claim had no validity.

He believes he lost out on about £5 a month – which translates to £1,020 over the 17 years of his tenancy.

He has qualified for a single person’s discount with Thames Water – but was not even able to apply for this while Metropolitan ran his account, so lost out on up to £8 a month, or another £1,632.

He said: “I don’t know how long it will take to get the discount money back – but I hope we are all still alive to receive it.

“Most housing associations were doing it – I know because I was a gas engineer and spoke to clients in their flats. Those tenants were not aware they were losing out.

“It has been annoying, because it was wrong to keep that money. But it is good to hear from you that we now know we will get it back.”

An L&Q spokesperson said: “We terminated our agreement with Thames Water in 2019 and residents have been billed directly for their services since that date.”

But the spokesman refused to comment any further on whetherenants from 2001-2019 would be refunded for the Thames Water discount which was not handed on to them.

A spokesperson for Metropolitan Thames Valley Housing (MTVH), which owns 57,000 homes across the South-East said: “We will be refunding our affected residents on the St Martin’s Estate in relation to the historic way in which water charges were collected.

“We started collecting water charges under this contract in 2004 and stopped in April 2016, and customers now pay Thames Water directly.

“We are currently working to establish what the refund is for each customer and we will be contacting them and letting them know.”

A spokesman for Notting Hill Genesis said: “I can confirm that we will be refunding any residents at St Martin’s who were affected by this.” But currently there has been no other comment on which other of its estates might be affected and whether those tenants will get a refund.

A string of other landlords across South and West London could also be affected – and have all been contacted this week.

Graham Weston, community action manager of High Trees community centre on the St Martin’s Estate, said: “High Trees understand the importance of supporting residents to organise around issues that are important to them, we are glad to see awareness being raised around this issue thanks to the efforts of Dennis and his neighbours. We will continue to support local residents to use Community Organising to take action on issues that are important to them.”

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