PLEASE READ BEFORE POSTING

Hello Forumites! In order to help keep the Forum a useful, safe and friendly place for our users, discussions around non-MoneySaving matters are not permitted per the Forum rules. While we understand that mentioning house prices may sometimes be relevant to a user's specific MoneySaving situation, we ask that you please avoid veering into broad, general debates about the market, the economy and politics, as these can unfortunately lead to abusive or hateful behaviour. Threads that are found to have derailed into wider discussions may be removed. Users who repeatedly disregard this may have their Forum account banned. Please also avoid posting personally identifiable information, including links to your own online property listing which may reveal your address. Thank you for your understanding.

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

1235710

Comments

  • bedlum
    bedlum Posts: 1 Newbie
    Our Management Company are Solitaire/Peverel. Hand in hand with them go the words, incompetence, LVT snd Right to Manage! Our story is bad but we know of many that are worse. There needs to be Government legislation!!
  • Much as I hate to say this, I am glad I'm not alone, as it was beginning to feel that the whole world was working against me!!!!

    I am an owner/occupier in a small block (6 flats) of which 3 are rented out, 1 owner/occupier is not interested as he has an arrangement with the managing agent to pay his service charges weekly and is "worried that they will take the arrangement away if he complains" and another who is sub-letting his flat as he has moved up North and, whilst he is supportive, this obviously is from afar!

    After receiving a service charges statement demanding an increase in management fees of 30%, and indication that the £2000 set aside and proposed for works to fit security doors had been "absorbed" and would not now be taking place as fire/asbestos reports had had to be completed, and work to repair only 2 of the flats balconies (no offer made to all flats!) of £750 - pretty steep for 3 hours work(???) - queries were raised with the management company. When they refused (either through ignorance or avoidance, who knows??) to fully respond to queries raised, and advised that future correspondence would cost £10.00 per hour, I made contact with the freeholder. After receiving a prompt ackowledgement (which have to admit was more than expected!) took another 6 weeks before this week receiving reply from freeholder, which still does not answer all queries, basically saying "move forward with agents without referring to ourselves" and a letter from managing agents, who conveniently only took over ownership of previous company without our prior knowledge and can't answer some queries, stating they wish to "resolve the current situation and push forward with future works".

    One of the issues close to my heart is access to my garage, which, as I work with the emergency services, I need access to day and night. As my garage is in the far corner of a block which is at right angles to the others, if my neighbours park in front of their garages (despite the lease only providing for access and egress to garages), I find myself in the unenviable position of having to knock on doors in the early hours in order to gain access to my garage - not helped by the fact that the surrounding garages are rented properties, which appear to have been let in breach of the lease with parking facilities which seems to be read as parking in front of garages, therefore, causing obstructions.

    At the risk of sharing all of my issues, which would be cathartic for me but quite possibly not for all reading this, any advice anyone can give would be much appreciated in terms of finances and lease term disputes (incidentally, in my correspondences I have made mention of RTM requiring 50% agreement - even though think would be hard pushed to get agreement to this! - with the response that the freeholders have an agreement with the managing agents that must "have support from at least 80% of the lessees to ensure stability and continuity of management".

    If anyone has any thoughts, all gratefully received. Please Martin, take note us leaseholders feel we are getting a v v v v v v v v v v v v v bad deal!
  • Much as I hate to say this, I am glad I'm not alone, as it was beginning to feel that the whole world was working against me!!!!

    I am an owner/occupier in a small block (6 flats) of which 3 are rented out, 1 owner/occupier is not interested as he has an arrangement with the managing agent to pay his service charges weekly and is "worried that they will take the arrangement away if he complains" and another who is sub-letting his flat as he has moved up North and, whilst he is supportive, this obviously is from afar!

    After receiving a service charges statement demanding an increase in management fees of 30%, and indication that the £2000 set aside and proposed for works to fit security doors had been "absorbed" and would not now be taking place as fire/asbestos reports had had to be completed, and work to repair only 2 of the flats balconies (no offer made to all flats!) of £750 - pretty steep for 3 hours work(???) - queries were raised with the management company. When they refused (either through ignorance or avoidance, who knows??) to fully respond to queries raised, and advised that future correspondence would cost £10.00 per hour, I made contact with the freeholder. After receiving a prompt ackowledgement (which have to admit was more than expected!) took another 6 weeks before this week receiving reply from freeholder, which still does not answer all queries, basically saying "move forward with agents without referring to ourselves" and a letter from managing agents, who conveniently only took over ownership of previous company without our prior knowledge and can't answer some queries, stating they wish to "resolve the current situation and push forward with future works".

    One of the issues close to my heart is access to my garage, which, as I work with the emergency services, I need access to day and night. As my garage is in the far corner of a block which is at right angles to the others, if my neighbours park in front of their garages (despite the lease only providing for access and egress to garages), I find myself in the unenviable position of having to knock on doors in the early hours in order to gain access to my garage - not helped by the fact that the surrounding garages are rented properties, which appear to have been let in breach of the lease with parking facilities which seems to be read as parking in front of garages, therefore, causing obstructions.

    At the risk of sharing all of my issues, which would be cathartic for me but quite possibly not for all reading this, any advice anyone can give would be much appreciated in terms of finances and lease term disputes (incidentally, in my correspondences I have made mention of RTM requiring 50% agreement - even though think would be hard pushed to get agreement to this! - with the response that the freeholders have an agreement with the managing agents that must "have support from at least 80% of the lessees to ensure stability and continuity of management".

    If anyone has any thoughts, all gratefully received. Please Martin, take note us leaseholders feel we are getting a v v v v v v v v v v v v v bad deal!
  • Fire_Fox
    Fire_Fox Posts: 26,026 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post Combo Breaker
    queries were raised with the management company. When they refused (either through ignorance or avoidance, who knows??) to fully respond to queries raised, and advised that future correspondence would cost £10.00 per hour, I made contact with the freeholder. After receiving a prompt ackowledgement (which have to admit was more than expected!) took another 6 weeks before this week receiving reply from freeholder, which still does not answer all queries, basically saying "move forward with agents without referring to ourselves" and a letter from managing agents, who conveniently only took over ownership of previous company without our prior knowledge and can't answer some queries, stating they wish to "resolve the current situation and push forward with future works".

    At the risk of sharing all of my issues, which would be cathartic for me but quite possibly not for all reading this, any advice anyone can give would be much appreciated in terms of finances and lease term disputes (incidentally, in my correspondences I have made mention of RTM requiring 50% agreement - even though think would be hard pushed to get agreement to this! - with the response that the freeholders have an agreement with the managing agents that must "have support from at least 80% of the lessees to ensure stability and continuity of management".

    Have you examined your long lease to see what is and is not chargeable? Have you checked what the managing agents are and are not responsible for sorting (e.g. parking issues)? Have you read the Lease Advisory Service website and are you setting your queries within the context of the legislation? Have you requested/ received a breakdown of charges explaining where the money absorbed has been spent?
    http://www.lease-advice.org/publications/documents/document.asp?item=14
    Declutterbug-in-progress.⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️
  • Fire_Fox
    Fire_Fox Posts: 26,026 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post Combo Breaker
    bedlum wrote: »
    Our Management Company are Solitaire/Peverel. Hand in hand with them go the words, incompetence, LVT snd Right to Manage! Our story is bad but we know of many that are worse. There needs to be Government legislation!!

    There is - the Landlord-Tenant Act 1985, which sets out the rights of tenants and obligations of managing agents and freeholders. If you are not getting anywhere with Peverel/ Solitaire directly (they are apparently a nightmare) you can take them to a Leasehold Valuation Tribunal. Not sure what other legislation you want? :confused:
    Declutterbug-in-progress.⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️
  • Hi everyone,

    I haven't posted on here before but this is a subject after my own heart!

    I bought my flat (leasehold) a year and a half ago when the service charge was £60/month. It has since increased to £116/month without any change to the services provided.

    The first increase just after I moved in when the freeholders took on a new management company (Savills) who promptly increased the management fee from £500/year to £4,000/year! All the tenants complained and we wrote a joint letter formally requesting a review of the charges or a new company to be employed. The freeholder didn't reply for 5 months but we stood our ground, despite frequent demands from Savills, some threatening legal action.

    NB. During this time we continued to make service charge payments direct to the freeholder at the value we were paying before the increase. I don't know where this stands legally but we figured it would show goodwill if it ever went to court.

    Eventually the freeholder agreed to get rid of Savills and employ a local agent with a smaller management fee, which we initially thought was great! Only now we've realised that he's increased all the other maintenance costs, meaning that we're still paying 60% more than the actual costs last year. It wouldn't be so bad if we were refunded any overspend at the end of the year but our lease says this will be held in a fund for future work.

    When challenged on the increase, the new managing agent has refused to meet the tenants to discuss the costs and even said that he intends to increase his management fee next year due to the volume of work.

    Even though I'm in a better situation than some people (at least we do get regular cleaning / maintenance) we seem to be powerless to stop the charges increasing hugely every year. Our lease states that increases must be 'reasonable' but how is this defined in law? The agents don't seem to pay any attention to it.

    I definitely think there needs to be a campaign on this as leaseholders can too easily be bullied by managing agents.
  • Fire_Fox
    Fire_Fox Posts: 26,026 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post Combo Breaker
    edited 24 July 2009 at 12:10AM
    dobbly wrote: »
    When challenged on the increase, the new managing agent has refused to meet the tenants to discuss the costs and even said that he intends to increase his management fee next year due to the volume of work.

    Even though I'm in a better situation than some people (at least we do get regular cleaning / maintenance) we seem to be powerless to stop the charges increasing hugely every year. Our lease states that increases must be 'reasonable' but how is this defined in law? The agents don't seem to pay any attention to it.

    I'm not clear how you are approaching the managing agents, why are you seeking to meet to discuss the costs? :confused: There is no requirement in law for the managing agents to verbally explain themselves to an angry group, and I would imagine they would charge extra for their time ... Have you been supplied with a breakdown of expenditure and have you formally requested access to the service contracts and invoices?

    The Landlord-Tenant Act 1985 also states that charges must be "reasonable" and "reasonably incurred". There is no requirement to minimise costs and reasonable means exactly that - what is fair for the level of service provided. Once you now exactly what services you are paying for, I would try to access service charge breakdowns for similar flats in the area. Basically you want a building of a similar age, size and quality - so if you have a gym and a concierge there is no point comparing to an ex-council block!

    I started with comparing my block's accounts to my parents building, which is actually quite different in both size and services. But still there were glaring anomalies - for example, if you scale up what we spent on light bulbs (parts only not man hours) in one year it eclipses the other block's entire internal maintenance budget!! :rolleyes:

    You may not think it now but a 'sinking fund' (where the excess money goes) is a very positive thing. If your lift is condemned, the roof needs a major overhaul or fire escape collapses you won't have a bill of thousands per flat. It's an absolute nightmare collecting one-off large levies from leaseholders. A sinking fund is also a valuable asset when you come to sell ... a lot better than a leaky roof or broken lift!
    Declutterbug-in-progress.⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️
  • rgtr
    rgtr Posts: 20 Forumite
    Hi all

    The property management industry is totally unregulated. The associations to which they belong DO NOT regulate - in fact they protect their members from the public.

    So what do they get up to - based on what Peverel do in Scotland.
    a) Insurance - they have a TWO levels of brokerage - one is just an in house percentage taker .... Kingsborough
    b) Insurance - seems actually like they do their own Reinsurance [ask Martin]
    c) Electricity - they bulk buy and sell on at an increased price under "affinity agreements".
    d) Electricity - they continually INCREASE the amount of power consumed - 36 watt tubes up to 58 watt ones. add new 500 watt floodlights at every opportunity.
    e) Light Bulbs. Wht do a global replacement when each time one goes a complete call out can be charged - puts the cost of a bulb costing half a quid (to the trade) up to somewhere between £25 and £40 EACH.
    f) Cleaning - why employ a claeaning contractor when you can use your in house cleaning management contractor to employ the SAME cleaning contractor - this roughly doubles the cost of cleaning. Makes Gordon Brown's direct employment of his cleaner seem positively skin flint - good on Gordon.
    g) Door entry phone systems - well the residents buy them, and then the system gets leased back ... well we fixed that scam here with out firts factor, but i will take bets with anyone that this will be comiong back to us in the future ...

    What property management from the "big [bad] boys" about is milking as much money as possible out of the residents.

    So find a smaller one - there are lots about - who offer SERVICE, and obey the rules. Peverel ... what a disaster.

    Last scam - property revaluation ...... charge a bomb for telling you that the cost of [re-]construction has risen. they have 10,000 estates. at a £1,500 fee per estate - thats £15 MILLION they just got in for looking up some values in a few tables. we are on the £100 per sq foot rebuild rate [tells you how old the tables are - still in square feet !]

    Dear MARTIN - PLEASE investiage this industry .... In scotland at least Patricia Ferguson MSP is to bring a bill to parliament to regulate them .... lets hope it gets passed ...
  • annah1212
    annah1212 Posts: 38 Forumite
    Thanks FireFox for your response to my post - unfortunately I've tried the Leasehold Advisory Service in the past and they said my problem is beyond their remit as I'm a freeholder. I can't find any organisations that can help freeholders nor any examples of other freeholders in the same boat as me, which is why I hoped I might find some ideas here ... fingers crossed!
  • Fire_Fox
    Fire_Fox Posts: 26,026 Forumite
    Name Dropper First Anniversary First Post Combo Breaker
    annah1212 wrote: »
    Thanks FireFox for your response to my post - unfortunately I've tried the Leasehold Advisory Service in the past and they said my problem is beyond their remit as I'm a freeholder. I can't find any organisations that can help freeholders nor any examples of other freeholders in the same boat as me, which is why I hoped I might find some ideas here ... fingers crossed!

    Have you used the search button for these message boards? I am sure someone has asked before about freeholder still having to pay service charges. :confused:
    Declutterbug-in-progress.⭐️⭐️⭐️ ⭐️⭐️
This discussion has been closed.
Meet your Ambassadors

Categories

  • All Categories
  • 342.9K Banking & Borrowing
  • 250K Reduce Debt & Boost Income
  • 449.6K Spending & Discounts
  • 235K Work, Benefits & Business
  • 607.6K Mortgages, Homes & Bills
  • 172.9K Life & Family
  • 247.7K Travel & Transport
  • 1.5M Hobbies & Leisure
  • 15.9K Discuss & Feedback
  • 15.1K Coronavirus Support Boards