Useful Information for home owners. Service Charge Accounts

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1 Useful Information for home owners Service Charge Accounts

2 What is a service charge? Service charges are charges billed to home owners for the cost of any repairs and services we provide during the year. Services we provide might include for example cleaning, or grounds maintenance in shared areas. Repairs we may undertake might include communal internal repairs or repairs to the exterior of your building. 2

3 Service Charge Accounts Your service charge How much do I have to pay? All home owners who receive services must pay their share of the full cost of services they receive as per the terms of their lease. These payments are known as variable service charges, as the amount you have to pay varies (it can go up or down) if the cost of providing the services changes within the year. How do variable service charges work? Before the start of the financial year, which begins on 1 April each year, we estimate how much it will cost to provide services that year. In accordance with the terms of your lease, you pay an estimated service charge for the year ahead. At the end of the year we prepare accounts for each block/scheme, comparing the estimates with the actual costs incurred. The difference between the estimate and the actual spend, is either refunded to you if we spend less than we estimated or charged to you if we spend more. 1 During the financial year, we will normally charge you on a monthly basis - spreading your service charge estimate across the year. 2 At the end of the financial year, which ends on 31 March, we compare the amount we have charged you and your neighbours, with the actual amount spent. We aim to send you a summary of the accounts for your building, showing this comparison, by 30 September each year. 3

4 Balancing charges A balancing charge is your share of the surplus or deficit as detailed on your service charge actual accounts. This is also known as an actual invoice or statement. An example is shown below Total actual cost 16/17 1, Less estimate paid 16/ Your balance Deficit If there is a surplus If the actual cost of providing services is lower than the amount we have estimated, there will be a surplus on your account. When this happens we will put a credit on your account. If the payments due on your account are up to date, we can refund this money to you directly if you wish. To arrange this, please complete the BACS Refund Request form on our website, or write to us: Leasehold team, Wandle Housing Association, Second Floor Minerva House, Montague Close, London SE1 You can also us at If there is a deficit If the actual cost of providing services is higher than what we have estimated, there will be a deficit on your service charge account. Almost all leases require you to pay your share of any deficit on demand, once you have been notified of the amount. The letter enclosed with your actual statement is a formal demand for payment. All deficits will be applied to service charge accounts at the beginning of October. If there is a deficit on your account and you cannot pay it immediately, we would be happy to discuss a payment plan with you. Please contact us as soon as you can to discuss further options, and our Income team will work with you to agree a plan. 4

5 Service Charge Accounts Service charge cycle September 2017 Service charge accounts (your actual statement) for financial year 2016/17 are issued, Your statement shows whether a credit or debit adjustment has been applied to your account. October January 2018 We respond to any queries relating to your actual service charges. November 2017 February 2018 Preparation of service charge estimates for financial year April 2018 to March 2019 (2018/19). February 2018 Service charge budgets and your estimated service charges for 2018/19 are sent to all home owners. April 2018 New Rent / Service charges for 2018/19 commences. How we calculate your service charge Costs are set out under four headings: Overall estimate for your building Overall actual for your building Your individual estimate Your individual actual Unless your lease says otherwise, the overall costs are divided by the number of homes that receive a service. For homes that are externally managed, we may use the same division of costs as the freeholder - for example, many managing agents service charges are based on floor area. If your lease says that costs are shared on some other basis, perhaps specifying the percentage of costs for which you are liable, that will be used instead. September 2018 Service charge accounts (your actual statement) for financial year 2017/18 are issued, Your statement shows whether a credit or debit adjustment has been applied to your account. 5

6 What does the administration fee cover? The administration fee includes the following costs: Staff costs of the Leasehold team as well as other teams who also provide a service for leaseholders such as Customer services, Repairs and Finance The cost associated with calculating and sending you your service charges each year Staff training costs Legal advice Computer systems Office accommodation Customer service call centre Site visits / Estate inspections Consultation on Section 20 issues (Major works) Newsletters, quarterly statements and other publicity sent to home owners Do home owners subsidise tenants? No. There are some service charges costs paid by owners that are not included in the service charges paid by tenants. The tenant s share of these costs is paid by Wandle from the rental income we receive. These differences are due to the requirements of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985, Section 11. This makes landlords letting property on assured tenancies rather than on long leases, responsible for specified repair and insurance costs. As examples, tenants do not pay for building insurance, repairs to the structure/exterior of the building, or for cyclical decorations. As stated above, their share of these costs are paid for by Wandle. For any given service charge item you are only required to pay for your share. For example, if there are two home owners and eight tenants in a block of ten dwellings, you would pay one tenth of the total cost of any given service relating to your block. You will never pay more simply because there are tenants in your block. Why is there such a big surplus or deficit on my account? Your estimated service charge is based on the information available to us about the costs we are likely to incur in that year. 6

7 Service Charge Accounts There will always be a difference between the budget for services and the actual costs that arise, and we will continue to use new information to improve our estimates. Variations can be quite large, and these usually arise when the information available to us is limited, or when we have unexpected costs, for example on repairs, or perhaps utility invoices. Some schemes have services provided by an agent appointed by the freeholder of the whole scheme, rather than by us directly. On these schemes, the costs we incur mainly consist of the payments we have made to the freeholder s agent. Those costs are reported in the accounts we prepare, and may include our share of the surplus or deficit for the whole site from an earlier period. Where there are external managing agents responsible for providing services, budgeting is heavily reliant on the information provided by the managing agents. I bought my home during the financial year, does this affect how the balancing charge is dealt with? within the year, the full amount of the year end balancing charge will be applied to your account. Your solicitor may have arranged for some of the purchase monies to be held back to meet any deficit that might arise, and you should contact them to see if that is the case. If you purchased your property directly from Wandle as a new home, we apportion your service charge to take into account the date you completed and we will not charge you for any periods prior to your completion. My home is managed by an external provider - what's different? If your home is managed by an external provider you will see a Third Party Management Fee on your account. We will provide you with a copy of the demand or final account from the managing agent, which will include a breakdown of this cost. Your Estimated Charge will always be based on the most recent estimated or actual demand we have received from the managing agent. If you purchased your property from another leaseholder or shared owner 7

8 How we will respond to an enquiry about these accounts Please note that service charge enquiries are not dealt with under our complaints process. Enquiry I shouldn t be charged for this service as I don t receive it How we will respond Please complete the form on our website detailing which service you believe you do not receive and why. We will check this information, which will take about one month, or sometimes longer as we may need to visit the scheme, as well as dealing with a number of enquiries around this time. If you are correct we will adjust your account and credit you with your share of the relevant costs. I am not happy that the service has been provided for the whole year, the quality of service is too low, or the work I have been charged for hasn t been done/ hasn t been done well/ was done several times before it was fixed. Please complete the form on our website, detailing when you believe the service was not provided or why the quality was too low. We will investigate as well as liaise with the contract manager for the service, and respond to you. This could take about one month or sometimes longer as we may need to visit the scheme, as well as dealing with a number of enquiries around this time. If the service failure is confirmed we will credit you with your share of the relevant costs. If the services are provided by another company, for example a managing agent who provides services to a scheme, we will pass on your complaint to them, and let you know their response. 8

9 Service Charge Accounts More information and forms available at wandle.com/servicecharge Enquiry How we will respond I think the costs are too high, or I want to see the invoices Please complete the form on our website so we know which costs you are concerned about. We will deal with your request in one of two ways, in accordance with the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985, Section 22. If you would like to inspect the invoices for these costs you may do so free of charge. Please complete and return the enclosed form. We will contact you and arrange an appointment for you at our office. If you would like to have copies of the invoices for these costs we require payment of an administration charge of 20 plus VAT for this service. Please complete the form and return it to us with payment of 24, and we will arrange for the invoices to be sent to you. A statement of rights and obligations in respect of administration charges is on our website and is available on request. If the information is held by someone else, for example a managing agent who provides services to your building, we will provide you with the name and address of the managing agent, for you to contact directly. They may ask you to pay and administration charge, as they are entitled to do. This is in line with Section 23 of the Landlord & Tenant Act

10 What is included in each Service Charge heading Service Charge Heading Grounds maintenance/ external cleaning What is included These are contract cleaning costs for external areas of the estate. This may include sweeping, washing down external communal areas, replacing external light bulbs, removing graffiti and cleaning materials. Where possible we try and separate the costs of estate and block cleaning, but this is part of an ongoing process of improving the information on costs that we receive from contractors. Many of our current contracts provide a single invoice per scheme. Bin hire These are charges incurred for hiring communal bins from the council. These costs are not covered under your council tax. Bulk refuse The cost of charges over and above the Council s normal service for the removal of bulk refuse. Typically these charges are incurred where we put a skip on site or have specifically asked contractors to remove a number of bulky items or there has been a problem with fly tipping on the estate. Managing agent fees or third party charges This covers the costs incurred by managing agents appointed by the developer or freeholder. This could either be estate or block charges or sometimes both. Portable appliance/ fixed wire testing These covers the cost of Portable Appliance Testing and or fixed wire testing in the communal areas to ensure they are safe. This is carried out by specialist. 10

11 Service Charge Accounts Service Charge Heading Communal cleaning Communal electricity / utility Pump maintenance General repairs Water / sewer systems Fire alarms servicing & maintenance What is included These are the contract cleaning costs for the internal areas of the building you live in. This may include sweeping, vacuuming and washing down of internal communal areas, communal window cleaning, and cleaning materials. If you live in a house, this cost is the external sweeping and litter picking of the area around your home. Where possible we have shown this under External cleaning, however this is part of an ongoing process of improving the information on costs that we receive from our contractors. This is the cost of lighting the common areas of your block or scheme. This includes external lighting and street lights where applicable. This also includes the cost of replacing bulbs in any communal lights. This is for the maintenance and servicing of any pumps used at your scheme. This is the cost of any reactive repairs we have undertaken to the structure, exterior or common areas of your building or estate. On many new estates the maintenance of refuse, waste and sewerage systems are not included in the charges billed by the water utility company. Any costs incurred in servicing and maintaining these systems is therefore included in the service charge. Servicing and routine checks and repairs to the fitted fire alarms, fire preventive or firefighting equipment or systems in the communal areas. These include smoke alarms, fire extinguishers, fire panels, fire escape mechanisms etc. 11

12 Service Charge Heading Fire Risk Assessment Legionella testing Lift servicing Lift maintenance Entry phone/intercom CCTV Systems TV aerial/satellite What is included This charge is for the cost of carrying out a legally required periodic assessment of the communal parts of a premise. This assessment may be carried out once a year or every other year depending on the size of the communal areas. The assessment is carried out by qualified specialist. This charge is for the cost of carrying out a legally required duty to assess and control the risk of exposure to legionella bacteria. This is carried out periodically by a qualified specialist. This covers the cost of the communal lift servicing contract. Each lift is subject to regular servicing visits and routine maintenance and Health and Safety checks are carried out on each visit. The cost of any repairs undertaken to the lift in your block that is outside the scope of the regular servicing contract. The costs incurred are set out on the attached sheet. Contract and repair costs for the intercom system if you have one in your block. If there is CCTV or other security systems installed on your estate this charge will cover any installation costs incurred in the past year, the cost of insurance or the service contract on the equipment and any fees paid to agencies or others to monitor the system. Costs of door entry systems should be separately identified. The fees for any communal TV, digital, cable or satellite system installed in the building. This is different and separate to any fees you pay to providers for subscriptions to particular services. 12

13 Service Charge Accounts Service Charge Heading Audit fee Administration fee Buildings insurance Sinking fund What is included This covers the cost of employing auditors to check our figures and review that we have coded costs correctly and to certify the service charge accounts. This includes the home owner's share of general day to day operational expenses including: premises, salaries and office expenses. It includes the cost of billing and collecting service charges, the staff costs of the Leasehold team and other teams who provide a service to home owners, such as Customer Service, Repairs and Neighbourhood teams. All buildings insured directly by Wandle are covered by the same insurance policy on a company wide basis. This gives us the best value for money and savings are passed directly onto residents. Some residents living in properties homes on developments where we do not own the freehold will be paying premiums determined by the freeholder. In these circumstances we have passed on the premium charged by the freeholder. Most of our new build properties have a sinking fund attached to them. The purpose of this is to build up a provision to pay for major items of repair and improvement to the building so that residents will not be required to pay out large sums of money in the year of incidence. The funds collected are held in an interest bearing account and this interest is added to the fund each year. The balance showing in your sinking fund each year is net of any interest and tax. Items normally paid for from the sinking fund include; cyclical decorations and planned repairs, lift replacement, window replacements, roof replacements and entry phone systems. We always consult residents where we intend to pay for items from the sinking fund. The sinking fund statement is provided with your service charge documentation where applicable. Some sinking funds can also be for external areas of your estate. 13

14 Service charges - summary of tenants rights and obligations (1) This summary, which briefly sets out your rights and obligations in relation to variable service charges, must by law accompany a demand for service charges. Unless a summary is sent to you with a demand, you may withhold the service charge. The summary does not give a full interpretation of the law and if you are in any doubt about your rights and obligations you should seek independent advice. (2) Your lease sets out your obligations to pay service charges to your landlord in addition to your rent. Service charges are amounts payable for services, repairs, maintenance, improvements, insurance or the landlord s costs of management, to the extent that the costs have been reasonably incurred. (3) You have the right to ask the Firsttier tribunal to determine whether you are liable to pay service charges for services, repairs, maintenance, improvements, insurance or management. You may make a request before or after you have paid the service charge. If the tribunal determines that the service charge is payable, the tribunal may also determine: who should pay the service charge and who it should be paid to; the amount; the date it should be paid by; and how it should be paid. However, you do not have these rights where: a matter has been agreed or admitted by you; a matter has already been, or is to be, referred to arbitration or has been determined by arbitration and you agreed to go to arbitration after the disagreement about the service charge or costs arose; or a matter has been decided by a court. (4) If your lease allows your landlord to recover costs incurred or that may be incurred in legal proceedings as service charges, you may ask the court or tribunal, 14

15 Service Charge Accounts before which those proceedings were brought, to rule that your landlord may not do so. (5) Where you seek a determination from the First-tier tribunal, you will have to pay an application fee and, where the matter proceeds to a oral hearing, a hearing fee, unless you qualify for fee remission or exemption. Making such an application may incur additional costs, such as professional fees, which you may have to pay. (6) The First-tier Tribunal and the Upper Tribunal (in determining and appeal against a decision of the First-tier Tribunal) have the power to award costs in accordance with Section 29 of the Tribunals, Courts and Enforcement Act 2007 (7) If your landlord: proposes works on a building or any other premises that will cost you or any other tenant more than 250, or proposes to enter into an agreement for works or services which will last for more than 12 months and will cost you or any other tenant more than 100 in any 12 month accounting period, your contribution will be limited to these amounts unless your landlord has properly consulted on the proposed works or agreement or the First-tier Tribunal has agreed that consultation is not required. (8) You have the right to apply to the First-tier Tribunal to ask it to determine whether your lease should be varied on the grounds that it does not make satisfactory provision in respect of the calculation of a service charge payable under the lease. (9) You have the right to write to your landlord to request a written summary of the costs which make up the service charges. The summary must: cover the last 12 month period used for making up the accounts relating to the service charge ending no later than the date of your request, where the accounts are made up for 12 month periods; or cover the 12 month period ending with the date of your request, where the accounts are not made up for 12 month periods. 15

16 The summary must be given to you within 1 month of your request or 6 months of the end of the period to which the summary relates whichever is the later. (10) You have the right, within 6 months of receiving a written summary of costs, to require the landlord to provide you with reasonable facilities to inspect the accounts, receipts and other documents supporting the summary and for taking copies or extracts from them. (11) You have the right to ask an accountant or surveyor to carry out an audit of the financial management of the premises containing your dwelling, to establish the obligations of your landlord and the extent to which the service charges you pay are being used efficiently. It will depend on your circumstances whether you can exercise this right alone or only with the support of others living in the premises. You are strongly advised to seek independent advice before exercising this right. (12) Your lease may give your landlord a right of re-entry or forfeiture where you have failed to pay charges which are properly due under the lease. However, to exercise this right, the landlord must meet all the legal requirements and obtain a court order. A court order will only be granted if you have admitted you are liable to pay the amount or it is finally determined by a court, tribunal or by arbitration that the amount is due. The court has a wide discretion in granting such an order and it will take into account all the circumstances of the case. 16

17 Service Charge Accounts Notes 17

18 Notes 18

19 Service Charge Accounts Notes 19

20 Useful Information for home owners Service Charge Accounts Second Floor Minerva House Montague Close London SE1 9BB

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