A PROPERTY company is under new fire for its surcharges on unpaid bills which Huddersfield people say they never received.
Readers have flooded the Examiner with complaints about demands made by London-based Estates and Management.
Newsome woman Pat Jennings said: "They want to charge me an admin fee of £20 for an unpaid bill of £2.25 and I know I've never had the original bill."
Readers in Fartown and Lockwood were also among those who complained. All said it was the first letter they had received from Estates and Management.
Letters from the rent collection firm advise anyone with problems to phone them - on a premium line charging 25p a minute.
Lockwood woman Pauline Moseley said: "I've spent 11 or 12 minutes on the phone trying to sort it - but haven't managed to speak to anyone.
"At 25p a minute it's cost me much more than the annual ground rent."
She added: "They say I owe them £20 more because I haven't paid £1.69.
"I'm absolutely certain I haven't had the original bill."
Huddersfield MP Barry Sheerman said two years ago that Estates and Management had used intimidatory tactics.
He said he had more letters and emails on the issue than anything else.
Today bosses at the firm promised to look into the complaints and gave the Examiner a new non-premium rate phone number.
James Clayton, of Red Doles Road, Fartown, said: "Several houses on our road have been sent demands for £20 for not paying ground rent on time. There's been no reminder notice."
Kirklees Council sold the freehold of over 12,000 privately-owned homes - once part of the Ramsden family estate - to Estates and Management in the mid-1990s.
The land is understood to have been transferred for a low price in a move which freed the council from having to collect tiny ground rents, typically £1.50 a year.
Examiner reader Brian Heeley, of Newsome, has been told he owes £65 on top of his £4.11 annual ground rent.
He said: "We've supposedly been sent a bill and a reminder which didn't get through to us.
"Lo and behold, this second reminder with the extra charges manages to get delivered."
Susan Greenhough said her mother, sister and friend had all had letters claiming they had overlooked the bills sent to them.
Mrs Greenhough said: "I asked my mother only last week if the bill had arrived yet. Now they're asking for £22.50 on top of the £2 charge.
"It's not fair on ladies of 73. I'd have written a cheque for £2 straightaway if the bill had arrived."
Mavis Knapton, who lives in Lockwood, said: "They say they sent the bill reminder on February 24.
"I've certainly never received it."
Mark Guy, Estate and Management's arrears and ground rent manager, said: "We are not clear why any confusion has arisen over the annual ground rent charge.
"Everyone should have received their annual ground rent invoice at least 30 days before the arrears letter was distributed.
"As an annual charge, all tenants should be aware of the due date and amount due.
"However, if anyone has individual inquiries regarding the amount and payment date applicable to the ground rent due, if they would like to contact me on 0208 3495511 - I will be happy to deal with their individual inquiries."
NEW provisions of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 brought into force from February 28 this year say:
* A tenant under a long lease must be given notice of rent for which they are liable and the date when payment is due.
* The landlord must give the notice - not less than 30 days or more than 60 days - before the payment is due and it must be given in the way the Act says.
* The notice must be served on the tenant at the property or at a contact address that has been provided in writing by the tenant.
* A landlord will have to give evidence in any later legal proceedings as to the date on which the notice was sent to the tenant.