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Service Charges: Potentially Reclaim Overpayments. One MoneySaver got £400 back!



  • Janyliz
    Janyliz Posts: 6 Forumite
    ooooh, consider myself told off! :rotfl:
    However, with respect, I do take exception at being told to go buy a new build!!
    This is not money saving or indeed useful advice.
  • Fire_Fox
    Fire_Fox Posts: 26,026 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post Combo Breaker
    Janyliz wrote: »
    ooooh, consider myself told off! :rotfl:
    However, with respect, I do take exception at being told to go buy a new build!!
    This is not money saving or indeed useful advice.

    "It's about cutting bills not cutting back and being a sassy consumer. Companies try to screw us for profits. MoneySaving shows you how to (legally) screw them back." So says Martin Lewis. :rolleyes:
    Declutterbug-in-progress.⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️
  • beckah
    beckah Posts: 51 Forumite
    Fire_Fox wrote: »
    When you receive service charge bills do you also receive a statement of your rights? This has been the law since 2007:
    "Any service charge demand and reminder letter after 1st October 2007 (30th November 2007 in Wales) must be accompanied by a formal summary of rights and obligations whose content and form is prescribed by Parliament."

    You need to write a recorded delivery letter to the managing agents detailing your complaints. Once service charges are in dispute the agents cannot simply treat this as a debt. The Leasehold Valuation Tribunal should be used once you have exhausted the in-house complaints procedure and it doesn't seem you have done that. A cheaper method than LVT is the LEASE Mediation Service, some long leases also provide that you can appoint an arbitrator from RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors).

    You should read your long lease to see what is and is not chargeable - they can only charge interest if your lease allows. They cannot charge for any debt collection action, incuding solictors letters, if your charges are in formal dispute. You have no legal right to pay monthly, you must set aside your service charges whilst you are disputing them.

    £300 a year is not a normal service charge - I would expect it would be more like £300 for the agents fees plus costs of running the building. If your long lease states that the managing agents are responsible for removing refuse then they have to do so and they are entitled to charge you for the pleasure. Your alternative is to organise removal of these bulky items yourself.

    Thanks for your reply I have done all the above but could not afford the leasehold tribunal. I will try the lease mediation though. We sometimes get a statement of rights in with our bill. We have now got a court letter through because we couldn't afford all the extra charges. So we now have to pay an extra £500 of charges on top of our service charge.
  • Fire_Fox
    Fire_Fox Posts: 26,026 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post Combo Breaker
    edited 4 August 2009 at 8:11PM
    beckah wrote: »
    Thanks for your reply I have done all the above but could not afford the leasehold tribunal. I will try the lease mediation though. We sometimes get a statement of rights in with our bill. We have now got a court letter through because we couldn't afford all the extra charges. So we now have to pay an extra £500 of charges on top of our service charge.

    The managing agents cannot add extra charges if the service charges are in dispute. Is the letter you received a court date or is it a legal letter threatening court? If the situation is clearly disputed the court will usually refer the matter to a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal - I would assume the managing agents pay for this as they are the ones taking you to court. What does your long lease say about disputes? Mine says we should appoint a RICS surveyor, but they do vary.

    I have re-read your earlier post and it appears that you have only complained by telephone - have you written any letters of complaint and sent them recorded delivery? Have you specifically said in writing that the charges are in dispute under the Landlord-Tenant Act 1985? Have you formally requested copies of the service contracts and invoices relating to cleaning and maintenance? Have you read this?
    Declutterbug-in-progress.⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️
  • dmg24
    dmg24 Posts: 33,925 Forumite
    Under Section 5 of Part 1 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1987 (as amended by the Housing Act 1996) a freeholder (aka landlord) must offer the freehold (nb not leasehold) of the building for sale to the flat owners before he sells his interest. There is a prescribed notice for doing this and failure to do so is a criminal offence.

    Thanks for your reply, I had already served a s. 11A notice which they chose to ignore. After lots of chasing I finally got a reply which was beyond belief - the freehold was transferred in 2006, prior to the requisite majority of properties being sold, and they had just neglected to tell us until now! No apology offered, indeed the letter was downright smug. :rolleyes:

    In hindsight I am not so concerned with buying the freehold, the lease is 999 years, and the ground rent is minimal. However, when I have the time I shall be invoking the RTM process. My block is only two properties so it will be very easy to self manage.

    On another note, unfortunately the Leasehold Advisory Service were not at all helpful when I got the above communication from Peverel. The man I spoke to did not know the answer to my question, and rather than asking a colleague (everyone else I had spoken to had been very knowledgeable) just told me 'not to dwell on it'! :confused: I asked him if he could point me in the direction of the information I needed, and he promised to call me back. He never did (I found the information myself).
    Gone ... or have I?
  • The best place to go for find out where you stand is the government's Leasehold Advisory Service. They offer completely free legal advice. Google them now - loads of information on the web site and you can phone is and talk to a solicitor.
  • Hello All

    Im glad finally someone has decided to act upon what I see as rogue trading. Thank-you Martin!

    I will try to keep the following as brief as possible but I and my fellow residents have alot to get off out chest.
    In April 2007 we brought a Flat via Bloor Homes which was situated in a communal block of 4. We have a fairly reasonable sized communal garden at the front and rear and a small communal hallway which consists of only 6 timered lights. Attached directly to our block are 6 coach houses and in total their are 65 buildings on the estate(including flats)
    We were aware we would have to pay service charges when we brought our property which we din't mind as long as the jobs we were paying for were being carried out to a good standard. However when the site was completly finished in April 2008 our problems with Chilton Estate Management were to follow. In September 2008 we recieved our first invoice from Chilton asking us to pay £350 within 10 days, we were shocked at this request as we had not recieved any prior notification that they were now our Management company or any options to pay in monthly installements. £350 for anybody to pay in 10 days is alot of money. I rang Chilton explaining mine and fellow residents concerns that we couldn't afford to pay just like that and asked 'why we hadn't been given prior warning considering they had been our Management company since May 2008?'
    They ignored my question of why we hadn't been informed and after much argument agreed to let us pay 4 monthly payments of £86 until December. We reluctantly agreed to pay as that is still not much less than we are paying in council tax. As the months went by we noticed that the cleaning and mowing of the grass was only being carried out once a month which we thought was un-acceptable considering money we were paying. I there-fore asked for a break-down of charges for the estate off Chilton so we could find out what we were paying for.
    It turned out that Gardening and Cleaning of the communal area was the most expensive. I decided in order for us to reduce our service charge to put together a contract which allowed all members of our communal area to carry out the tasks of mowing the gardens and hoovering on a rota basis in which we all signed and agreed to do. Chilton after much debating agreed to this and agreed it would reduce our charges.
    This was too good to be true... In April 2009 we recieved our new years charges which were meant to be in our possesion on the 1st of January of £550. An increase of £200 even though we were carrying out our own duties. I and many others we angered by this and immediatley rang Chilton to ask what was going on. They apologized and said we still had to pay the money as they had no recollection of our duties. My response to this was that we had a signed document form the Director of company proving we had taken over these duties and that we would not be paying until a revised invoice had be sent out.
    We did not hear back from Chilton again until a month later and all they had reduced our bill by was £120(total £430). Still working out more than we had paid for the previous 6 months. Myself and others were now getting quite irrate and I decided to ring them and ask for copies of reciepts and buildings insurance and other relevant documents so we could prove we were not being ripped off. Chiltons response was we would have to pay a fee to recieve such information. I thought this was out of order considering what we were being asked to pay. So decided not to go down this avenue and so decided to form a petition and get all Service paying residents on the estate to sign if they thought Chilton were not performing their duties to a acceptable standard. I was suprised to find not one person was happy with them and managed to gain 30+ signitures. Residents in 3 tier communal buildings were being asked to pay £840 an increase of £300 from previous. I realized other people were in a worse situation then myself.
    I then rang Chilton again and asked why everybody who was paying the service charge had recieved such a big increase. Their response was that they did not get all the correct information off Bloor to whom should be paying service charges so therefore everybody else would have to pay the new amounts until records had been sorted. Still nothing to this day has been done and no-one on the estate has paid the new charges as they strongly find this unacceptable. I have found out from my own digging that approx 20 properties have not been paying service charges from the start. That Chilton on the invoices under statatory information gave us the name of the wrong Landlord of our Freehold and that they didn't have record for who it was.Is this Illegal? Does this mean we have no Buildings Insurance even though we had been charged for it? Are Bloor at fault for mis-selling the estate to ourselves as the original plans showed only a handful of council properties but due to Bloor unable to sell the properties more were sold to the Council and some were made Freehold. Does this mean the Council/Freeholders are under no liabilty to pay service charges even though they can use the communal areas?
    Considering I live in Wiltshire which is out in the country I find £430 for our block which is the only block to have 4 flats on estate and £840 for the remainder of the 3 tier blocks more than alot of money to put it politley for 6 months. Does anybody else agree??
    Finally our Solictors contract states that these service charges are to be sent out on the 1st of January and 1st of July. However we have been recieving these in April and September. Are we liable to pay and can they back-date if sending the invoices out late?
    Please Martin Help!
    If you require more information please ask and sorry for the long wided essay.

    Hi Arsenals Jenkins,

    Your posting is like a breath of fresh air to me after another day of battling with the wonderful Chilton Estate Management company-, after nearly 3 years of consistant battling with CEM I am seriously getting to the end of my tether.

    Your posting could have been written by me. The circumstances that you refer to are almost identical. I too live in a Bloor homes property.

    CEM are unprofessional and immoral. They receive payment (nearly £60 a month) and they provide NO service whatsoever. Our building is severely run down due to there being no maintenance carried out on it at all in the 5 years since i have lived here.

    The most recent event in a long line of unresolved issues is that they have now asked us for an additional £75 last month to cover an outstanding electricity bill that they have 'only just received from Bloor homes'. Considering we moved in 5 years ago and CEM took over 3 years ago, this is unreasonable to ask for. Whats more its an oversight on CEMs part. Are they interested in this- NO! They gave us a month to pay.

    That in itself i feel was unjust- but i paid it. Mainly beacuse they stoped the cleaning of our communal areas about 3 months ago, citing the reason for doing so was beacuse they had 'insuffient funds in the pot'. Despite us paying regulary for a service they halted this without any notice or explanation and it wasnt until i followed up with them that i found out they had used the cleaning money to pay this mysterious electricity bill!

    Having now paid what they asked for the electricity and still payed the £60 a month they demand, I expected the cleaning to be back on immediately. How silly of me- 3 weeks on- STILL no cleaning.

    Once again contacted CEM and they are still claiming insuffient funds!!!!!!! They have said they will reinsate cleaning once a month- how does that work when I am paying for it to be cleaned twice a month? I obviously asked this question to get a great response from the lovely Deborah Vellerman, saying 'I will not enter into this conversation any further i have given you sufficient information to answer your queries'.

    I have resorted to email with CEM, firstly they dont return calls and secondly i want an email trail of all comms.

    I would love to chat with you about your situation and how you have resolved it (if indeed you have). I have tried every tactic going but they are not interested. I have recently suggested she come out and view the property- i want her to look me in the eye and tell me this property is maintained to an effective standard- obviously she ignored that invite.

    I am so envious of friends in flats who pay less and have beautifully maintained properties. I want to sell my flat but the state of the communal areas is preventing me from doing this.

    Apologies for the rant but as i said, its a releif to hear we are not the only ones with problems with CEM.

    Hope to hear from you soon- Perhaps you live on the same estate as me!
  • The DWP do help with Decent Homes costs and service charges - I certainly know they make payments to/for plenty of leaseholders in the area I work. Managed to dig up some internal guidance showing worked examples on Google

    I didn't read it properly - bit long - but perhaps it can be waved under an advisers nose when asked if help is available.
    Opinion, advice and information are different things. Don't be surprised if you receive all 3 in response. :D
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