AN 85-year-old widow claims she is forced to ‘live in a pig sty’ despite having paid her flat service charges in full for three years.

Dina Sale bought her ground-floor flat at Ainsworth Court, Belgrave Heights, Darwen, three years ago after the death of her husband, Cliff.

She pays a £57.55 monthly to Manchester-based property management firm Stevens Scanlan as a service charge for maintainence and insurance.

Mrs Sale, who has mobility problems, said: “At first everything was lovely. Now I can’t open the blinds, they are so dirty.

“The windows have not been cleaned since last August.

"My daughter and a neighbour have had to get a lawnmower to cut the grass themselves and we have to pick the litter up.

“I’m 85, I can’t possibly do these jobs for myself.

"Every month I pay what I am supposed to, but where does it go?

“The stress is killing me. I don’t see why I should live in a pig sty.”

A spokesman for Stevens Scanlan, said the problem had occured because half of the tenants of Ainsworth Court had not paid their service charges.

He said: “All owners pay into a fund for services and they are jointly liable.

"We are administrators who just collect the money that is paid.

"Legally, we can’t underwrite the payments to people like the gardener or the window cleaner on behalf of the other people who fail to pay.

“The money that has been paid by tenants is used for essentials such as buildings insurance, third-party liability and electricity for the communal areas.

“Health and safety must come first before cosmetic things like gardening, but it’s not correct to say that they have been suspended – they are just less frequent.

“We have every sympathy for Mrs Sale and have written to all residents to explain.

“We are chasing through the courts the people who have not paid, but that can take up to six months to resolve.”