What are service charges?
A service charge is a payment you make towards our costs of providing and maintaining services and benefits for the block of flats or location where you live. It relates to actual or estimated costs only -there can be no element of profit built in.
You may pay a proportion of the cost for works carried out. Major works can be costly when a lot of repair or refurbishment work is needed.
Whilst you are responsible for the repair and maintenance of the inside of your home, you may not carry out repairs or improvements to the building (such as the window frames) yourself, without written permission from us.
We are responsible for maintaining the structure of the building and the communal areas such as halls and stairways, and our costs are passed back to you on a proportional basis through the service charges.
What is included in the service charges?
- Major repairs and improvements where applicable - repairing and painting the outside of the building on a regular basis (usually every five years), and may include replacing windows, communal staircases and the roof as well as improvements such as door entry systems
- Day-to-day maintenance -routine repairs including carpentry and guttering repair
- Electricity - for lighting the communal areas
- Open space maintenance - for the upkeep of grass or shrubberies where such areas are provided for the use of residents, including car parking, pavings, hardstandings and external drying areas. Also applicable boundary walls and fencing
- Ground rent - this is the charge you pay once a year to reflect the fact that your home is built on land owned by the organisation
- Buildings insurance –insuring the building is the responsibility of the organisation. We have a comprehensive Buildings Policy covering the properties we own against damage or destruction. Your home is insured for full reinstatement value (i.e. cost of rebuilding it). You are charged an amount based on the cost of rebuilding your property, calculated as a proportion of our total annual premium.However, this does not include home contents insurance and you must make your own arrangements for this.
- Management costs – this is the cost of calculating and issuing invoices and other financial information, together with the costs of running the services detailed above.
How can I pay my service charges?
When you receive service charge bills you can pay by post or by direct debit. If you are unable to pay your bill at once, you may pay by monthly instalments, provided that the full year’s charges are paid within12 months of the start of the service charge year (1April).
If you would like to pay by monthly instalments please let us know by writing to us or by telephoning our offices on 01327 707500.
With large bills for planned maintenance/improvements, it may be possible to increase your mortgage or take a home improvement loan to meet the costs.
What happens if I don’t pay my bill?
If you don’t pay your bill within one month of receiving it and you have not arranged to pay by instalments, we will send you a reminder. If we do not receive your payment after that we will issue a second reminder.
If we still do not receive your payment we will take legal action in the County Court to get the money back.
If the court decides you have broken the conditions of your lease, you will have to pay the bill and pay for our legal costs. Ultimately we would also apply to cancel your lease, ending your right to live there.
If you have any problems paying your service charge bills, please get in touch with us straight away. If you contact us quickly we will try our best to help and to avoid taking legal action, which could mean that you avoid losing your home.