AN ILMINSTER resident fears being forced out of the town by the “extortionate” service charge on her flat.

Sally-Anne Walmsley, 46, of Walnut Place, is a resident of Stonewater Housing Group who has bought her one-bedroom flat, but still has to pay a service charge on top of her mortgage.

She decided to contact the Chard and Ilminster News after seeing on our front page (January 20, 2016) another Stonewater resident, Jake Cullen, was left trapped in his bedroom for nearly five days after engineers could not fix his specialist lift.

She is also deeply upset by the treatment from Stonewater Housing Association.

Sally-Anne, who has lived in Ilminster for more than 15 years, said: “I moved in to the flat two years ago.”

“The service charge was about £60, which was reasonably high. Within a year, it went up to £102.22.”

Sally-Anne has been trying to find answers, with very little result.

“I have phoned them and spoken to them a few times and they would ignore my calls. I asked to speak to a manager but they wouldn’t let me.

“This led to complaints that didn’t get a response, it was very worrying.

“I emailed them but again didn’t really get a response, and it has been a year now.”

Marcus Canning, head of Home Ownership at Stonewater, said: “This flat is a former Shared Ownership property. The owner purchased the property at 100% - this is not a social or affordable housing property.

“The payments have increased partly due to the number of repairs carried out to communal areas increasing and the cost of window cleaning which has increased.

“In addition, we have increased contributions to the reserve fund for long term maintenance to make sure that adequate funds are available when major items need replacing and cyclical decoration is required - this was increased following a property condition survey.

“All service charges are variable and do go up and down. We make every effort to estimate to the best of our abilities however items like unforeseen repairs are very hard to estimate.”

The sudden hike in her service charge has hit Sally-Anne hard, putting her in serious financial trouble and making her consider leaving the town she has always wanted to live in.

“I have got myself into financial problems. It is looking very serious for myself. I can’t justify paying that amount either. I have got a big overdraft and I keep having to get it increased.

“I want to raise awareness so that people just might realise that these companies are supposed to help. I shouldn’t be forced out.

“I went to the bank and couldn’t get a loan and now I have had to put all my debt and overdraft onto credit cards.

“I work 32 hours a week as a sales assistant, and I would like to be able to carry on doing it and living here. I shouldn’t be forced out by a company.

“(Stonewater) don’t seem to have any compassion or concern.”