RESIDENTS of a converted church in Bury have been hit with bills of nearly £850 each after losing out in a service charges dispute.

Leaseholders of the former All Saints Church, in Orrell Street, Elton, had been told they were not liable to pay a combined £10,958, alleged to be owed to their new landlords.

Apartment dwellers insisted they had effectively ‘self-managed’ the complex, established in the grade II listed building after the church closed in the mid 90s, for 10 years.

But the new freeholder, Adriatic Land, lodged an appeal with the Upper Tribunal (Lands Chamber), which has now ruled in its favour.

An earlier hearing, before a lower lands tribunal, was told that All Saints Residential Apartments Ltd was incorporated, comprised of the leaseholders, a month prior to the old landlords being liquidated.

This company, set up by one of the tenants, Heather Miller, was itself liquidated in 2017 though, the tribunal heard.

While Adriatic served notices on tenants in July 2017, informing them they were taking over the freehold, it took until the following December to gain access to the building.

What was described as ‘”acrimonious correspondence” followed between the new landlords and the tenants.

Bills for service charges were then issued, for 2018, which the leaseholders refused to pay, the tribunal heard.

Residents argued at the time that the charge was not only greatly increased from what they were used to paying but that the new landlord had only actually insured the building from April 2018 onwards.

The lower tribunal ruled that no payments were due to Adriatic, under the terms of any new agreement, as the residents association company had not been struck off the Companies Register.

An acknowledgement was also given that residents had agreed to pay, around this time, a combined £1,074 for electrical testing, a health and safety emergency plan and for dealing with asbestos.

But Judge Elizabeth Cooke, of the Upper Tribunal, following a hearing in Manchester, threw out that decision.

Judge Cooke said: “A company in liquidation has ceased, for all practical purposes, to exist and I find that on this basis also the freeholder was entitled to do the work.”

She also noted that nothing had been pleaded, by the residents, over whether the service charge was ‘reasonable’.

The judge ruled that a sum covering the period from January 1 to August 31, totalling £10,958, should be paid over by the 13 All Saints residents.

A right to management company was formed by the leaseholders in September 2018, the tribunal heard.

All Saints was converted into apartments in 2003 after officially closing its doors in 1995. It was replaced by a new church in Hebburn Drive, Brandlesholme.

Neighbours have led clean-ups of the church grounds in the intervening years, via a friends group.

The church dates back to 1843 and it is believed around 20,000 people may be buried within the grounds.