RESIDENTS are accusing a housing company of 'stealing their home' after it announced a second price increase for this year.

People living at Windmill Court, a sheltered housing scheme in Freshbrook, first complained about Stonewater after it increased its charges in April.

But now the firm has informed more residents of a second increase to their service charge, adding an extra £50 per week to their bills. 

The new charges come into effect on November 20 and will see weekly payments increase from £140.14 to £196.36. 

Some of the new charges include pest control, fire equipment maintenance, laundry maintenance and TV aerial maintenance. 

Read More: Swindon sheltered housing residents face homelessness after bill hike

Swindon Advertiser: Residents at Windmill CourtResidents at Windmill Court (Image: Dave Cox)Terence Stanley has lived at Windmill Court since 2015 and he says these new charges are unmanageable. 

"This has been mental torture for the last 6 months, not just for myself but for the rest of the Southern Housing residents. I myself am suffering from severe sleep deprivation and I'm having to take medication. 

"If I stay here there will come a time when it will become too much to cope with. Had they imposed this service charge from next April it would have given me the opportunity to look elsewhere. 

"Instead, they have given us a very short deadline to find alternative housing and they have done this just before Christmas. 

"Stonewater has stolen my home from me."

Swindon Advertiser: Councillor Sean WilsonCouncillor Sean Wilson (Image: Councillor Sean Wilson)

Councillor Sean Wilson has said the price hike will leave elderly residents on fixed incomes "thousands of pounds out of pocket".

He added: "It seems Stonewater have learnt nothing from the emotional and financial distress they caused earlier in the year with newer residents.

"Now they are doing the same for the remaining two-thirds of residents, many of whom have lived there for decades.

"They have put up service charges for heating and electricity as well as creating spurious new ones such as fire equipment and pest control which did not previously. They are also backdating these charges."

Sir Robert Buckland had written to Stonewater to express concerns over the increased costs for people living at Windmill Court and has pledged to do "all [he] can" to support residents.

In response, Stonewater's CEO Nicholas Harris explained why the costs needed to increase.

He said: "Customers on a variable service charge will see new service charges have an element which recovers a previous under-collection of charges compared to actual costs. In other words, a deficit brought forward to this year’s account.

"The disparity is due to two things; firstly, the under-projection by Southern Housing Group, from which Stonewater acquired the homes, and secondly, the unprecedented increase in energy costs during 2022 and early 2023 (which has affected everyone but is only now being applied to variable charges because of their cyclical nature)."

Swindon Advertiser: Windmill CourtWindmill Court (Image: Dave Cox)Mr Harris also added that there was help available for those who may struggle to make ends meet. 

"We very much understand that increasing costs are never welcome and have urged any customers worried about money to speak to us.

"Our review letters set out a wide range of support available and we’re making sure they’re followed up with one-to-one conversations so we can better understand any concerns.

"While we’re not able to discuss details of other customer’s accounts and increases, we are happy to talk through individual changes to ensure people understand their charges and how they’ve been calculated.

"During these conversations, we also remind customers of the range of financial support we offer, which is explained in our ‘Help with Money’ guide, as well as a number of tools and links to money advice, budgets, grants and other help available, either directly or through our charity partners."