Service charge due? Check your bill
- Published on Wednesday, 10 March 2010 08:36
- Written by Roger Tolman
It’s that time of year, with quarterly or half-yearly service charge demands falling due at flats across the country.
With bills often adding up to four figures, it always makes sense for leaseholders to check their service charge demands and to make sure they know what to do if there is something awry. However, for a challenge to be successful, they will need to make sure you have some understanding of what the law says. That's where the government's FREE Leasehold Advisory service can help.
It’s that time of year, with quarterly or half-yearly service charge demands falling due at flats across the country. With bills often adding up to four figures, it always makes sense to check your service charge demands and to make sure you know what to do if there is something awry. However, for a challenge to be successful, you will need to make sure you have some understanding of what the law says.
Even if you have paid your bill, you can still challenge it so long as you have not specifically admitted or agreed that the charges are payable.
According to The Leasehold Advisory Service, the government’s free legal advice service for leaseholders and landlords, the first thing to do is read and understand your lease. Whether or not you are liable to pay for a particular service usually depends on your lease. However, if the demand is unreasonably high or the standard of work unacceptable, then the law is behind you and you can challenge the charge.
“An over-riding principle is that service charges must be reasonable this means they must be reasonably incurred and are only payable if those services or works are of a reasonable standard,” says Tony Essien, chief executive of the Leasehold Advisory Service. “If you believe that works undertaken or services provided fail to meet reasonable standards, write first to the landlord or their managing agent raising your concerns and state why you believe that the charges are unreasonable.”
If this is unsuccessful, leaseholders can consider using a mediation service such as the one provided by The Leasehold Advisory service (www.lease-advice.org). If, however, the landlord is unwilling to go to mediation. then armed with the evidence that shows the charge is unreasonable you can make an application to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT) asking them to determine how much of the charge is payable. An LVT should prove to be a relatively quick and inexpensive way of resolving a dispute. Though most applications to the LVT are subject to payment of a fee, this is presently set at a maximum of £500, not much when divided between all the leaseholders.
You do have a right to ask for more information about you service charge bill and can request from your landlord a written summary of costs incurred during the previous accounting year (or, if there is not one, the 12 months up to the date of your request). They must send it to you within six months of the end of the last accounting period or within one month of the request - whichever is later. You can then send a written request to the landlord asking to inspect the accounts , receipts and other documents supporting the summary within 6 months of receiving it.
Later this year, new rules are due to come into force requiring landlords to provide you with annual service charge information that will include a ‘Statement of Account’ that detailing service charge information without your needing to make a special request. Some landlords and managing agents are already providing such detailed summaries,
Further information and a downloadable advice guides are available from The Leasehold Advisory Service at www.lease-advice.org or you can speak to one of the LEASE team of lawyers on 020 7374 5380. Their advice is completely free.
Source: © Leasehold Advisory Service