CamdenNewJournal

The independent London newspaper

Town Hall apologises for demanding cash from residents whose homes were destroyed by fire

A 72-year-old woman, who has lived there for more than 40 years, “lost everything but the clothes on her back

16 April, 2018 — By William McLennan

The fire in Daleham Gardens last November

THE Town Hall has apologised to residents of a council block who were sent demands for money months after their homes were destroyed by a fire that claimed their neighbour’s life.

Around 20 people have been unable to return to their flats in Daleham Gardens, Hampstead, since the blaze in November, but many have been sent letters requesting payment of ground rent, service charge and council tax in error.

Magdalena Fink, 35, died in the fire, which is still under investigation by police.

Conservative councillor Stephen Stark, who has taken up the case, said that Camden Council had been “compounding the suffering of the victims with their gross insensitivity”. A 72-year-old woman, who has lived there for more than 40 years, who “lost everything but the clothes on her back” has been hit with the demands, he said. Cllr Stark said: “She has lived in the property for over 40 years.

Last week she received a demand for payment for ground rent for the burnt-down building. She also received a note about arrears for service charge for the burnt-down building. She is always being chased for an alleged council tax missed payment which she says she’s got the records of, but they are on her computer in the burnt-out building.”

She had complained of a “absence of communication from Camden Council and the cloak of secrecy surrounding events”. Questions have been raised about fire safety at the building, with residents telling the New Journal at the time that they did not believe an alarm sounded on the night of the blaze.

Other concerns centred on the “neglected” state of the building’s interior. Cllr Stark said that a review of other similar properties was needed. “There is a huge number of street properties owned by Camden and nobody knows the condition of these.”

A Camden Council spokesman said: “We are really sorry that charges were issued in error at such a difficult time for Daleham Gardens residents. We will be contacting all affected residents to say sorry personally and make clear that, as we said following the fire, we will not be collecting ground rent, service charge or Council Tax from them.” The council said the future of the building was unclear, with assessments still under way.

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