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

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Comments

  • I live in a block of flats currently managed by County Estate Management. In recent months the residents have become so dissatisfied with the 'service' (or lack of) that we are looking to take action, but have hit many hurdles.

    To start with, 3 years ago each flat was billed just over £800 for internal redecorations to the whole development (around 120 flats). In some parts of the block, the work has still not commenced and in other parts it has been done to such a poor standard that it needs to be done again.
    We've also had problems with broken doors/windows/locks that remain unfixed for months at a time because the residents are just ignored when they report the faults. The intercom hasn't worked for 3 years, despite this being reported several times. The communal areas outside have fallen into disrepair after months of neglect.

    This is despite each flat paying £1000+ a year in service charges.
    In protest, a group of residents arranged a meeting with CEM at their offices to discuss all the problems we have been having. They produced receipts for work they say has been carried out but we all know that the work hasn't been done. They say they went over budget last year but where the money was spent remains a mystery. One resident is currently going through the piles of receipts to see where all our money has gone.
    Through our investigations, we discovered that the LVT (Lease Valuation Tribunal) can help with some disputes, but there are charges involved which may be more than any judgements in your favour. Still, can can talk to them free of charge about your disputes and they are very helpful.
    If you have had enough of your management company and 50% of your development are in agreement that they should go, you can forma Right to Manage (RTM) company which takes over. You can get rid of your current company and either manage the development yourself, or hire a new company to do it on your behalf. All that info is widely available on the net.

    It seems that there is little regulation in the industry and these companies can charge what they like and take your money with no guarantee of you getting any service at all.

    Residnets began to withhold payments and have now been served with threatening debt collection letters. It's a big mess but people must fight back.
  • I bought a leasehold property in 2006 and every year this increased by over 10%. It's not right as I bought the property with the understanding that I will be paying roughly 'X' amount in service charge and didn't expect it to increase by well over the rate of inflation every year. The managing agents are useless in estimating costs and every year add a huge amount because of their incompetence at estimating. Worst is they don't even bother to reply to phone calls and emails. BTW they are called Hallmark. They should be forced to provide copies of all receipts to leaseholders and how they work out future costs. That way eveything is transparent.
  • Fire_Fox
    Fire_Fox Posts: 26,026 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post Combo Breaker
    Farbr wrote: »
    Our block of 14 leasehold apartments used to have managing agents and we suffered from their lack of information; over-priced fees (8% of total service charges) and complete inability to understand the concept of cashflow. They were not on-site and just paid bills when they were presented by contractors. In theory (according to the books - now in our possession) our windows were cleaned 22 times in one year. In practice, they were cleaned SIX. But the window cleaner obviously knew he could get away with it and overcharged us 14 x £100

    You could be speaking about our block!! :eek:

    We are just fifteen apartments remotely 'managed'. Last year's charges were £160 a month, we don't have anything fancy like a gym or security guard and the communal areas are in a terrible state. Our cleaners bill monthly for at least one wall of windows that have not been cleaned at all since I moved in December 2006! Billing for work not carried out is fraudulent, and blindly paying invoices that have been queried by leaseholders is a 'breach of trust'. I believe both carry an automatic prison sentence.

    I presently owe £4400, up by £400 earlier this month without any explanation. I have repeatedly asked for documentation under the Landlord-Tenant Act 1985 and just get ignored - one letter took eleven months to answer, two others took five months. :rolleyes: Hilariously they then claimed their charges are "transparent and open to scrutiny".
    Declutterbug-in-progress.⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️
  • dmg24
    dmg24 Posts: 33,925 Forumite
    We got a lot of help from the Leasehold Advisory Service. The government runs it and it's a completely free service. These guys really seem to know their stuff. We found out that we have a right to take over the management ourselves or to choose our own agents. Worth a phone call or a look at their web site.

    I would echo this. My case is quite complex, but the advice provided by the Leasehold Advisory Service has been spot on everytime.
    Gone ... or have I?
  • Fire_Fox
    Fire_Fox Posts: 26,026 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post Combo Breaker
    icelolly wrote: »
    I bought a leasehold property in 2006 and every year this increased by over 10%. It's not right as I bought the property with the understanding that I will be paying roughly 'X' amount in service charge and didn't expect it to increase by well over the rate of inflation every year. The managing agents are useless in estimating costs and every year add a huge amount because of their incompetence at estimating. Worst is they don't even bother to reply to phone calls and emails. BTW they are called Hallmark. They should be forced to provide copies of all receipts to leaseholders and how they work out future costs. That way eveything is transparent.

    They are forced to supply you with documentation under the Landlord-Tenant Act 1985. There is an excellent explanation of the legal position on the Lease Advisory Service website but basically you should be writing to the managing agents, not phoning or e-mailing. I'd recommend recorded delivery so you have a paper trail. Since 2007 the agents should be sending you invoices incuding an explanation of your rights.
    Declutterbug-in-progress.⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️
  • Just a quick note - if your are unemployed, sick or a pensioner, you can claim for your service charge and MAJOR WORKS bills from the Government. It's a bit of a well kept secret, and I had a battle, but especially for pensioners, you need to know.
  • Fulham_Mark
    Fulham_Mark Posts: 242 Forumite
    Danny - Re County Estate Management.

    We sacked CEM a few years ago.

    I'll be careful not to say anything that could be libellous but things were so bad for us that I *feared* soemthing pretty bad was going on there. Tens of thousands of pounds went missing (we can prove this), CEM could never provide evidence of how money had been spent.

    My feeling is that CEM is in chaos most of the time, Service charge money just disappears.

    We contacted the builders etc who had done work that CEM charged us for. Many of them had never been paid by CEM.

    get out quick Danny!
  • PlutoinCapricorn
    PlutoinCapricorn Posts: 4,598 Forumite
    First Anniversary Combo Breaker
    edited 22 July 2009 at 12:21PM
    Lucy, I believe that pensioners can only have their service charges paid by the government if they are receiving Pension Credit (formerly Minimum Income Guarantee) which is means tested. Many pensioners on low incomes get just enough to disqualify them.
    Who having known the diamond will concern himself with glass?

    Rudyard Kipling


  • Danny - Re County Estate Management.

    We sacked CEM a few years ago.

    I'll be careful not to say anything that could be libellous but things were so bad for us that I *feared* soemthing pretty bad was going on there. Tens of thousands of pounds went missing (we can prove this), CEM could never provide evidence of how money had been spent.

    My feeling is that CEM is in chaos most of the time, Service charge money just disappears.

    We contacted the builders etc who had done work that CEM charged us for. Many of them had never been paid by CEM.

    get out quick Danny!

    Tried to send you a PM Mark, but not sure if it went through. If you can provide more details of what steps you went through to effectivley sack your management company that would be fantastic.
  • I can only agree with everything everyone is saying already about these companies. There is no accountability and they seem to just charge what they like without ever providing receipts. I haven't paid my service charges for nearly a year now as i've been trading letters with the company, Scotts, who ramped up the annual charge by 33%, have no focus on costs and presumably use the same tradesman they have always used for works because for them that's easy rather than earning their money and getting a few quotes. I'm well aware i'm legally obliged to pay but they refused part-payment and, sadly, also refuse to engage in any sensible discussion about how we can work to bring costs down - they are simply not interested.

    The whole process relies on collecting money from a group of people who although sharing a block together largely don't know each other. If anyone knows of a reputable management agent who had a client focus in terms of reducing costs please advise. Sadly, the whole management agent market is uncompetitive because leaseholders generally stick with the same agent regardless of how poor they are because no one knows anything better.
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