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BBC Panorama and shared ownership homes

On the 25th November, BBC Panorama broadcast an episode focused on shared ownership homes and included a number of references to Clarion.

We engaged constructively with the BBC, answered all of their questions and provided a comprehensive statement.

The statement below sets out our position with regard to service charges and the length of leases on shared ownership homes.

Service charges

"Clarion Housing Group is a charitable registered society. We exist to provide good quality, affordable homes to people failed by the market, not to make profits. Shared Ownership is a regulated tenure that helps thousands of people onto the housing ladder every year.

"Like all landlords we levy service charges to cover the costs of maintaining a building, which typically include communal lighting, heating, grounds maintenance and the cleaning of communal areas. Where applicable, charges for gyms and a concierge service are also included.

"Nationally, the average service charge increase levied by Clarion in 2020/1 was 2% for leaseholders and 1% for our social housing residents.

"In the case featured on Panorama (Mr Worrall) we acknowledge that in 2018/19 we underestimated the service charges, leading to a higher bill than anticipated. We apologised for the mistake and waived our administration fee for three years. All residents in the building were given a year to pay the balance, so they could manage the payments in small increments.

"We conducted a review and confirmed the service charges for Mr Worrall’s building is in line with similar buildings. The cost includes access to a gym and a concierge service, added at the request of the majority of leaseholders. In 2020/1, the concierge service accounts for 16.5% of the annual service charge and is the major factor in the increase in costs.

"Our approach to service charges is under review. We are determined to continue to improve the service we provide to our shared owners and ensure it represents value for money."

Length of leases

"Clarion purchased the property referenced by Panorama in Battersea through a Section 106 agreement with the developer and the 125 year lease offered to the shared owners was in line with the rules set out by MHCLG.

"We recognise the system needs to change and believe the leases offered to shared owners should match the terms of people buying outright.

"A review is underway, but we will be moving away from 125 year terms and offering longer leases on Clarion shared ownership properties in the future."