Published: 05:00, 21 December 2021
| Updated: 16:11, 21 December 2021
Elderly residents who were told to take Christmas wreaths down from their doors or face a costly bill for removal have branded housing association bosses “worse than Scrooge”.
People living in Joseph Conrad House in Canterbury put up the decorations to inject some festive cheer into the retirement complex.
But they have since received “aggressive” letters from Hyde Housing, telling them to remove the wreaths, which it says are fire hazards.
It also wants residents to clear plants from windowsills, five vases and Christmas trees in corridors.
Failure to do so, it warns, will result in the entire block sharing the removal bill if it is not established who owns the items.
David Geoghegan, 69, claims Hyde is “acting like the Gestapo”.
“Residents have been talking about how upsetting the letters were, and lots of us felt it was uncalled for and heavy-handed tactics,” he said.
'I can’t see how a wreath is a fire hazard because millions of people have them.'
“It’s Christmas and there is no goodwill in it.
“The threat of sending people to remove Christmas trees and wreaths – we don’t need that, and we are really upset.
“I can’t see how a wreath is a fire hazard because millions of people have them.”
Another resident, John Allan, 72, also cannot understand how wreaths pose a fire risk, “unless someone comes and sets alight to them”.
“I have never lived in such an environment,” he said.
“I came here because it was individual living, so you can get on with your own life, but everything that is being done is being inspected and complained about.
“It is not a very happy environment at all.
“Some of the ladies who live here are quite upset about the whole situation.”
Hyde Housing property manager Emma Oliver sent the letter on Wednesday, demanding residents remove their decorations.
"I am writing to you all again as you keep storing or leaving personal items in the communal areas," she writes.
'We know many residents were looking forward to making things festive after a difficult year, but we’ve got to make sure everyone’s safe, and keep to the latest fire safety regulations.'
"This is not acceptable. The communal areas are not for storage or dumping of any unwanted resident items.
"Hyde Housing Association have a legal duty to ensure all communal areas are kept free from obstructions (including trip hazards) and fire risks, and to ensure communal facilities are used appropriately.
"No further inspections will be taking place. Christmas decorations and door wreaths are not allowed as they are considered highly combustible.
"I will attend with the removal team and if the items are still there, I will have them removed and the cost of removal will be recharged to the block if I cannot find out who these materials belong to.
"The cost of these removals is estimated at £120. We will recharge this cost to the block or to the individual where we know who this is."
Audrey Williamson, head of housing for Hyde, confirmed the policy, adding that the safety of residents and buildings is the firm's "utmost priority".
"We’re sorry but we can’t allow our residents at Joseph Conrad House to put up Christmas decorations in the communal areas of their building, due to fire safety regulations," she said.
"We know many residents were looking forward to making things festive after a difficult year, but we’ve got to make sure everyone’s safe, and keep to the latest fire safety regulations.
"Unfortunately this includes door wreaths, as some can be highly combustible.
"While we can’t allow Christmas decorations in most communal areas, we’re still putting up decorations in designated safe areas, including the lounge at Joseph Conrad House.
"The £120 was an estimated amount if Hyde was required to remove any of the items which present a risk to everyone’s safety."