Service Charges on your flat. Are you paying too much?

Flat owners are routinely required to pay service charges to the owner of their building (the Landlord). In recent years, the average service charges have increased dramatically. A recent study found that service charges for new build apartments in the UK had reached an average of £2,777.00 per year.

While the average has no doubt been increased by the number of high-end apartments in central London (with some flat owners paying upwards of £7,000 a year in service charges!), the level of service charges in Leeds is also on the up. Flats (even those in older buildings) are looking at a yearly average service charge of around £1,800.00.

What is a service charge?

Service charges are sums incurred by the Landlord in looking after the building.  The Landlord is responsible for maintainance and repairs to communal areas such as lifts, corridors, gardens and roofs. It can also include things like the cost of lighting and cleaning the communal areas of the building. The Landlord (or its property manager) will then pass these charges on to the owners of the flats – splitting the cost of them between the flats. This is what is known as the service charge.

Unless some special works are required in a particular year – a flat owner’s service charge will often be the same every year.

 So what should you look out for?

 There are a number of things you can look out for when you are considering your service charge bill. If the Landlord does not follow the correct procedure, you may be able to reduce the amount of your service charge bill. You may even avoid paying it altogether! Here are a few examples:

  • Your Landlord can only charge you fees that are “reasonable”. The works that have been carried out must be reasonable and the amounts charged to you must also be reasonable.
  • The Landlord must demand the service charge from you properly. There are many requirements for a Landlord to meet for its service charge demands to be valid. If those requirements have not been met, there is a chance that you may not have to pay the service charge.
  • Are the service charges for one-off, major works? If so, has the Landlord consulted you and your fellow tenants in advance about the work that it wants to carry out?  There is a lengthy procedure that Landlords must follow before they can charge you for such work.  If they do not follow that procedure, those service charges may not actually be payable at all.
  • Are the charges in relation to areas of the common parts for which you should be paying? For example, leaseholders of ground floor apartments will often not have to pay towards the maintenance of the lift.

If you think you are being overcharged for service charges, we would always recommend that you seek advice from a specialist solicitor who will be able to advise you.

If you have any queries about the above, you can call our Property Disputes Team on 0113 244 9931.