3. Other charges explained
Before you purchase a leasehold property, it is important to check you will be able to afford it. You need to find out what the current and future service charges are likely to be. You should also check what plans there are for major works that could affect the service charge in the next few years after your purchase. The service charge may vary every year.
You may also have a mortgage from a lender which you must keep up to date.
Because leasehold is a tenancy, it is subject to the payment of a rent (normally £10) to the landlord. Ground rent is a specific requirement of the lease and must be paid on the due date.
Service charges are payments by the leaseholder to the landlord for all the services the landlord provides. These will include maintenance and repairs to common parts, insurance of the building and, in some cases, provision of lifts, lighting, communal aerials, door entry systems, cleaning of common areas and grounds maintenance, etc. Usually the charges will also include the costs of management. Service charges can vary from year to year; they can go up or down without any limit other than that they are reasonable. Details of what can (and cannot) be charged by the landlord and the proportion of the charge to be paid by the individual leaseholder will all be set out in your lease.
You will be charged actual service charges once the financial year ends (31 March) and the full costs are known. Details of how you can pay will be shown on the invoice.
Main components of the service charge
The management fee
This covers the costs of providing a leasehold management service to you. This includes staff costs, office costs, IT services, postage, telephone etc.
The buildings insurance charge
As the owner of the freehold of your building we need to make sure that it is properly insured. We do this by insuring your home on our block policy. As all our leaseholders are insured on this policy, we get a cheaper rate and pass the savings on to you. The charge for this is shown on your annual service charge schedule. We do not make a profit on the premium we collect.
Information about the current buildings insurance policy and a summary of cover is available on request. We will also help you if you need to make a claim. You should make sure that you are not paying buildings insurance to your mortgage lender as well as to us. Our policy does not cover the contents of your home. We strongly recommend that you take out home contents insurance to cover theft or damage to your belongings and damage you might cause to another part of the property.
Gardening and communal areas
If your home has communal gardens, extensive hallways and other communal areas, we may on some blocks appoint contractors to do the gardening and litter picking. The costs are included in your service charge payments. To make sure you get a competitive price and a good service we invite tenders for the work on a regular basis. We have procedures to check that the contractors are doing a good job but will always welcome your help. If you have any comments on the service you are getting from the contractors, please let us know. Some blocks also have care-taking services for the communal areas.
If your building or estate has any shared lights for paths, car parks or hallways, you will pay for the running costs through your service charge.
To report a repair please contact Housing Repairs at 01903 787827 or e-mail email@example.com
Repairs and maintenance
Whilst it is not practical to list all of the repairs and maintenance for which the council will be responsible, these include:
- Roofs, drains, gutters and shared pipes on the outside of your home
- Exterior walls
- Communal entrance doors
- Window frames and exterior cills (excluding glass)
- Outside paint work
- Shared paths and steps
- Chimneys and chimney stacks
- Communal stairs and landings
- Shared outbuildings, including drying areas
- External and internal structural walls (but usually not the plaster)
- Boundaries (except where you or a neighbouring owner are responsible)
Installations, fixtures and fittings:
- Communal heating systems
- Shared water pipes, water tanks, gas pipes and electrical wiring
- Light fittings in shared areas
- Controlled door-entry systems
- Decorations in shared/communal areas.
- Keeping communal areas clean (where it is not the leaseholder’s responsibility)
- Maintaining and checking the landlord’s electrical and lighting supplies
From time to time the council needs to carry out major work to its buildings in order to keep them in repair. This is also known as cyclical work. Projects might include replacing roofs, windows, doors, external subsidence, brickwork repairs or redecorating the common areas of the building where you live. Major works are generally those projects that will cost individual leaseholders more than £250.
Landlord and Tenant 1985 (as amended) Section 20 Notices
If the council needs to carry out any major works to your building, you will be consulted beforehand in line with the legal requirements that apply to all landlords. This will include two formal notices. The first pre-tender S20 Notice is of the intention to do works. Leaseholders have a 30 day period following this Notice in which to make written nominations. The contractors nominated must meet specified criteria in order to submit a tender. After a minimum of 30 days the second S20 Notice sets out the estimated costs from the successful tender. Leaseholders have a 30 day period following this Notice in which to make written observations about the works and/ or the costs and to request sight of the tender documents. There may be more than 30 days between the first and second Notices while tender documents are reviewed.
If necessary the council may hold meetings with resident groups and will keep you informed.
Once the works are completed there is normally a ‘defects liability period’ in which the contractor can be brought back to remedy any faults at no extra cost. This is the time to alert the council to any faults you are aware of - once this period is over, costs will be incurred to put right any defects. In addition, in the case of flat re-roofing and some other major works materials, there will also be a guarantee on works installed by a qualified and approved contractor. Hence if for example a roof leak occurs during the guarantee period the company will attend and rectify with no additional charge to the clients providing it is a fault with the material and/or the installation.
Major works bills
The council does not manage a sinking or reserve fund to collect money in advance. Major works are normally billed in arrears with the annual service charges.
Paying for major works
Due to the time period between when you first become aware of the costs you have to contribute to and when the works are actually billed, please make the necessary provisions to make payment when you receive the invoice. When the demand is made, payment typically will be due within 30 days. Alternatively you may request an instalment plan. There are also other payment options.
Reserve or sinking funds
There are no funds in place under the terms of the Local Authority lease beyond the first 5 years of the initial Right to Buy purchase.
When do I have to pay my charges?
We will send out an invoice detailing the costs for the past financial year with an explanation of your rights by the end of September each year.
Right to inspect accounts
You also have a statutory right to inspect the invoices for costs included in the service charge accounts. We can arrange this and, for a reasonable charge, supply copies.
You should keep copies of the annual service charge accounts. They are important records both for you and anybody who wants to buy your property.
How can I pay?
We want to make it as easy as possible for you to pay your service charges. This means giving you a choice of different ways to pay.
The easiest way to pay is online at www.arun.gov.uk/pay. Select ‘Leaseholder charge’ and follow the simple directions. You can pay in full or by monthly instalments.
Many of our residents have already chosen to pay by Direct Debit and we would encourage you to consider it. Here are some of the advantages of paying by Direct Debit: only one form to fill in to set up the debit instruction, no queueing and no need to notify your bank each year. The Direct Debit guarantee covers you against any errors made by us or your bank.
What if I have trouble paying my charges?
Your service charge will vary from year to year depending on the costs incurred. The biggest variation will be when it is necessary to carry out major works. We will consult you in advance about major works, and give you advance warning of the amount you will have to pay, so as there is no sinking fund, it is in your best interests to budget for future expenditure. Whether large or small amounts, we need to collect your service charge contributions so we can pay the costs of managing and providing services to all the leaseholders in your building or estate.
Talk to us first - contact Leasehold Management Services if you have any queries.
Get advice - our staff can help you to complete a personal budget and will refer you to specialist welfare benefits and debt advice agencies depending on your circumstances.
Do not ignore any letters or documents we send you or any calling cards we may leave at your home.
Deal with debt early - leaving it until things build up only makes it harder to sort out in the long run. We will chase up payment, if necessary with court action, to enforce your debt. However, we will also offer details of how to get advice on what benefits you may be entitled to receive, and any other issues. Where appropriate we will take all reasonable steps to agree an alternative but fair individual payment schedule.
If you do not to pay your service charge, your lease can be forfeited. This means that we can repossess your home, and you would not be entitled to anything for it. However, this could only occur after a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal has confirmed that our service charges are reasonable and any other legal requirements have been met. We will do all we can to avoid forfeiture ever happening. If you have a mortgage, your lender will want to protect their security. We will let you know if we intend to contact them to see if they will pay the arrears and add the amount to your mortgage. Most lenders will do this, but it may affect their view of you as a borrower.
A bad payment record could stop you getting another mortgage or loan.
Can I get help towards paying the service charges?
There are a number of options available to pay for major works carried out at your block. Please contact your leasehold management officer for specific details. If you are earning a low income, or receive a state or private pension, you may be entitled to claim benefit to help pay the service charges. Your local benefit office can give you a claim form.