Beach hut owners fury over rental charges plan
Furious beach hut owners in East Devon no longer have the option of monthly rental charges spread out across the year due to ‘unannounced’ changes being imposed by East Devon District Council. It is claimed that without any prior warning, the council has sent out invoices last week stating the yearly costs of beach hut rentals must be paid in four consecutive months starting from next month.
Anita Merritt www.devonlive.com
For one beach hut owner, it has left her unsure if she will continue to rent the hut that has been in her family for many years in Beer. Claire Branfield is now faced with four monthly payments of nearly £300 a month from April to July, instead of paying under £100 a month, with just a couple of weeks notice.
It is a double blow for beach huts owners who have also seen their rents increase by three per cent. EDDC says it has been brought on to create the same payment rules for both new and current beach hut owners and to stop tenants cancelling tenancies part way through the season without having paid the full amount.
Claire, who was born in Beer and lives in Budleigh Salterton, said: “Last year I paid £97 in 12 monthly instalments which is a lot but now it has trebled to £295 for four months. When I complained to the council the person I spoke to was very apologetic and said letters should have gone out to warn us.
“I am aware that EDDC is intent on making the maximum return from their assets, but it is the slipshod and careless way they go about it which has infuriated me. I received just an invoice, no covering letter, and the lack of prior notice shows supreme disregard for ratepayers’ finances which are already under great pressure. As it happens, I can afford to find the money by July, but many people can’t.
“This could be the final straw for me. My beach hut is up all year round but I am beginning to think seriously for the first time of giving it up.”
Beach hut owners have also condemned EDDC for wasting taxpayers money in postage costs and the environmental impact by each year sending out business rate notifications which are said to always issue an invoice for 0.00p.
A spokesperson for East Devon District Council said: “EDDC have introduced a revised payment structure for beach huts to standardise payments for all tenants. We now offer two options: payment in full for the season ahead, or for those wanting to spread the cost, four affordable direct debit payments.
“This change has generally been well received, as many who started tenancies within the last two to three years had been required to pay upfront and have welcomed the opportunity to pay in instalments. Although tenants have been put onto four monthly instalments as default, a number have opted to pay in full.
“Previously, tenants were able to pay by various instalments which made administration inefficient and inconsistent. EDDC was exposed to tenants cancelling tenancies part way through the season without having paid the full amount.
“EDDC has over 3,000 people on our waiting lists. It’s important we avoid cancelled direct debit arrangements and a loss of income, and protect those who commit to a full season.
“£0.00p bills were sent to tenants with explanatory notes to advise them that small business rate relief has been applied, so there is nothing to pay. If they pay business rates on another property they need to let us know.”