Disabled and elderly tenants are being forced to pay for repairs to their council-owned property under new rules brought in to save money.
The compulsory repair fees were previously waived for many elderly and housebound tenants but the cash-strapped council is now trying to claw back funds by charging its own residents.
Tandridge District Council in Surrey is even suggesting tenants find a friend or relative to do the maintenance work the authority is refusing to pay for – including minor plastering and fixing switches.
But pensioners in Warlingham, Surrey, are incensed at the move, which could also see people with hip replacements balancing on chairs to change lightbulbs.
Retired builder Barry McDonald, 86, said: “The council draught-proofed my patio doors without charge recently.
“Now I’d be expected to fork out probably £100 or more for the job. Residents are not well off – this is an injustice.”
Barry fears that if a well-meaning but untrained friend or relative carries out a botched repair job, it could have health and safety ramifications.
Marguerite Slater, 81, a former nurse at Warlingham Park Hospital, said: “My rent is more than £90 a week. Isn’t that quite enough to pay out?
“I disagree with this new policy, charging elderly people who have already paid a lot into the system over the years.”
Marguerite said her thermostat was broken, and she did not know how much it would cost to fix.
She added: “It’s too warm in my flat because I can’t turn the heating off.
“I’ve had to leave my windows open as it’s so hot in here.”
John Balmforth, 82, a retired motor engineer, said: “It’s ridiculous and wrong.
“Many residents here are too old and infirm to even change a lightbulb, let alone fix a washer on a tap.”
Rob Preedy, technical manager in the council’s housing department, said residents can use the Council Handyperson Scheme to help them.
He added: “In the past, if you were aged over 70 or registered disabled the council would use its discretion and carry out jobs that were a residents’ responsibility.
“Unfortunately due to ever increasing maintenance costs the council is no longer able to exercise its discretion and carry out these repairs.
“If in future a resident is unable to carry out these repairs they will have to ask a relative or friend to assist them.”
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