BOSSES at a firm in the middle of a ground rent row have promised to improve the way they deal with Huddersfield customers.
Freeholds for thousands of properties in Huddersfield are held by London-based Estates and Management after being sold by Kirklees Council in 1994 and 1996.
For several years, complaints from leaseholders have flooded into the Examiner.
Complaints include high administration charges, difficulty in getting through to an expensive helpline, letters to the firm being ignored and cheques being mislaid.
Two people who complained were Newsome couple Mark Oakes and Joan Gill, who faced a £230 bill - for an unpaid ground rent of £5.61.
Now, after meeting Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman, the firm has promised to deal with complaints more quickly and helpfully. It will also install a non-premium rate phone line.
The meeting came after Mr Sheerman spent months championing leaseholders, acting as a mediator.
He said of the firm:
"They did make a lot of excuses, but at least we have a face- to-face relationship."
Mr Sheerman plans to watch carefully to see if the firm delivers its promises.
He also says there are still issues to be looked at.
He added: "My constituents - many vulnerable and on low incomes - have been made miserable by a firm that is part of a vast empire run by multi-millionaires."
The MP wants more regulations put on such firms.
In November, a new Act designed to increase leaseholders' rights will be fully in force.
Estates and Management said it was very keen to establish better relations with leaseholders.
Two new phone numbers have been set up, on which contact can be made between 9am and 5.30pm five days a week.
General manager Michael Gaston said: "We apologise that our administration has not always been as good as it might have been.
"The management of our ground rent business was outsourced for some time.
"It may also have been difficult for tenants to contact us by phone at times."
Mr Gaston said solicitors sometimes did not tell the firm about change of ownership of houses. Also, some tenmants might not know they were leaseholders, because of solicitors' "deficiencies".
He urged leaseholders to set up standing orders with the firm, so their ground rent payments would not be overlooked.
Direct line numbers at Estates and Management are: Ground rent department/standing orders 020 8349 1919; sales department/ administration 020 8349 5500.