Leaseholders say they are "depressed" and losing sleep over bills of up to £30,000 for repairs.

Janet Jackman is one of several leaseholders handed large bills by Harlow Council for major works repairs to roofing and cladding on housing in Five Acres in Harlow.

The 64-year-old has already paid around £17,000 for repairs to a property she owns in Hornbeams.

Mrs Jackman said: “I could cry. Every day I wake up and feel depressed. I feel my every day living is affected because I keep thinking ‘oh my god’.

“If I want to buy a new top I think better not. £30,000 is a devastating amount.”

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Council tenants do not have to pay, and under a law brought in in 2014, authorities are no longer be able to levy huge bills for government-funded repair work on people with little hope of paying.

Addressing Harlow Council cabinet on Thursday night (March 24) Mrs Jackman asked how to cut the bills and why the council had let the housing get into such a poor state.

Cliff Phillips, 73, who lives in Five Acres, is also facing bills of around £30,000. He wants the tenders resubmitted to ensure the council is getting competitive quotes.

He said: “I am not in a position to borrow any more. The money I receive is only just enough to get by on. This is giving me sleepless nights. I’ve recently had a major heart operation and I don’t need this over my head.”

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Cllr Simon Carter, cabinet member for housing, admitted to the council that maintenance has fallen back but said there are a number of wayspayments can be eased.

He said he "understood and appreciated" major works could be a financial burden, and leasholders been provided with detailed answers.

He explained that the council is responsible for keeping maintenance to an acceptable standard, obliged to ensure the structure and fabric are kept in good order, and that these works are necessary to meet these obligations.

He added that consultation with leaseholders has and is being undertaken and that all tenders are appropriately evaluated with intensive checks.

Former Local Government Secretary Eric Pickles introduced a cap on repairs after a 93-year-old constituent was landed with a £50,000 bill by her local authority for roof repairs.

Newham Council based its fee on a guess because it had not conducted a proper survey. It later emerged the roof would have lasted another 40 years.

The family of Florence Bourne say she “died of shame” because she had never been in debt in her life and could not afford to pay the bill for work on her Brentwood home.

Now new directions are being issued to councils and housing associations which will force them to limit the amount they can charge for work wholly or partly funded by the government.

Outside London the maximum level will be levied at £10,000 in any five-year period, with a cap of £15,000 for the capital.

Authorities will bear the outstanding costs of work themselves.

Harlow Council says there are no grants or government funding for these works, which are paid for from the council’s ring-fenced housing revenue account.

Cllr Carter added that the council continues to make representations to help support the costs.