Families stunned by letter ordering them to pay £3,000 in two weeks for new heating

Gentoo Group has apologised for any “confusion” over the demand, which appeared to tell families in Washington, Tyne & Wear, that they needed to settle the eye-watering bill before October 8

Furious families received a letter demanding £3,000 for new heating, telling them they had just two weeks to pay up.

The angry residents in Washington, Tyne & Wear, were contacted and told to settle the bill before October 8, Chronicle Live reports.

The letter, which came from Gentoo Group, was sent to all homeowners connected to the ageing Washington District Heating system.

It’s the latest in a line of gripes the residents have with Gentoo, and they now say they feel left out in the cold over the plans.

The firm has now apologised for any “confusion” over the letter, which it said “confirmed the cost of replacing the pipework and radiators of an average of £3,000”.

Austin Mosely, spokesman for the Gentoo communal heating charges group, said: “The letter has been written in such a way it sounds like a demand for money.

“Some elderly residents have been so worried by the letter they have considered taking out loans to pay Gentoo the money.”

The letter follows months of wrangling between the householders and housing group Gentoo over planned upgrades to the district heating system, which delivers heating to their homes from a centralised boiler plant.

Austin said: “There is huge confusion about who actually owns the pipework which carries the heating from the boiler plant to our homes.

“The letter states that homeowners own the pipework and equipment in their homes which is connected to the District Heating System but we argue this is incorrect.

“When homeowners originally purchased their properties from the Council or Gentoo they were informed by solicitors that pipework, radiators and infrastructure was the property of Gentoo and they are responsible for maintaining it.

“This fact is also in the deeds of all of our properties.

“There are several restrictive covenants which forbid us carrying out any work on the heating in our homes and we are not allowed to disconnect from the district heating system.

“Repairs have to to be carried out by an agent appointed by Gentoo, and Gentoo pay for the work. We pay for this service via our heating charges, which are much more expensive than standard heating bills to accommodate the extra cost.”

Although the Facebook group, set up by fellow resident Michael Colling in January, has been in dispute with Gentoo for a number of months regarding the transparency of the tariff they are charged for their gas, the latest argument has come about as Gentoo makes plans to remove the district heating system and provide each home with its own boiler.

Austin said: “Everyone who owns their home is being told now that they have to pay for the gas pipework that currently supplies their home to be upgraded.

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“Hence the letter being sent out of the blue, which has caused a lot of problems.

“We say that Gentoo are responsible for the work as they own the system. Gentoo say paying for the pipework to be upgraded to privately-owned homes is not good value for their tenants.

“Our argument is that we have been paying for the maintenance on the system through our bills, in exactly the same way as tenants have, so we should not be treated any differently.

“Gentoo have caused a huge amount of bad feeling in the community by their actions.”

Diane Carney, Executive Director of Property at Gentoo Group, said: “Gentoo is installing new boilers and radiator valves free of charge to all leasehold and freehold properties (i.e. private owners). In Gentoo owned properties, we are taking the opportunity to complete additional work, including replacing pipework.

“At the request of private owners, Gentoo issued a letter clarifying the cost of replacing the pipework and radiators on the 20 September 2021.

“This letter confirmed the cost of replacing the pipework and radiators of an average of £3,000. We apologise for any confusion, and for clarity, the replacement of the pipework and radiators is not required and owners will still receive a new boiler at Gentoo’s cost.

“There are provisions in the property owners’ titles dealing with the use of the district heating scheme.

“These are largely concerned with the rights to benefit from the scheme, repair and maintenance of the system, and obligations not to interfere with the equipment used for the common benefit of the neighbouring occupiers.

“However, these terms are only applicable for so long as the scheme is operational and certainly do not extend to replacing internal pipework in properties that are owned by private individuals.

“We would like to reassure all private owners that the existing pipework is fit for purpose and compatible with the new individual domestic boilers.

“We would like to apologise to all private owners for any historic misinformation given and unnecessary upset or confusion caused.”

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