What if I don't agree with my service charge demand?

It always makes sense to check your service charge demands but, before you challenge them, you need to make sure you have some understanding of what the law says.

According to LEASE the government’s free legal advice service for leaseholders and landlords, the first thing to do is read and understand your lease. Whether or not you are liable to pay usually depends on your lease. However, if the demand is unreasonable then the law is behind you. Remember though, that what you think is unreasonable and what the law sees as unreasonable may not be the same. The LEASE team of qualified solicitors will be happy, to advise you.

Here they answer some of the most frequently asked questions:

Where do I start? A service charge demand must show the landlords name and address and be accompanied by a summary of your rights and obligations. The demand is not payable until both requirements have been complied with.

Do I really need to pay for all these items? You cannot be charged for items not referred to in the lease. In particular, if improvements are being proposed to the building, make sure the lease allows the landlord to carry out and charge for such works. An obligation on the landlord to maintain and repair the main structure and common parts does not necessarily mean, say, they can build a bin store where one did not previously exist.

I am being charged for a management fee – is this allowed? Only if the lease allows!

Do I have the right to ask for more information? You are entitled to request from your landlord a written summary of costs incurred during the previous accounting year (or, if there is not one, the 12 months up to the date of your request). They must send it to you within six months of the end of the last accounting period or within one month of the request – whichever is the later. You can then send a writen request to the landlord asking to inspect the accounts, receipts and other documents supporting the summary within 6 months of receiving it.

I’ve checked and I still believe the charges are unreasonable – what next? Service charges must be reasonable. This means they must be “reasonably incurred” and only payable if those services or works are of a reasonable standard. First write to the landlord or their managing agent raising your concerns and state why you believe that the charges are unreasonable. If this is unsucessful, consider a mediation service. If, however, the landlord is uncooperative then you can make an application to the First-tier Tribunal (FTT) asking them to determine whether the charge is payable.

I have paid my service charge demand – can I still challenge it? Yes, so long as you have not specifically admitted or agreed that the charges are payable.

For more information and a dowloadable fact sheet visit www.lease-advice.org or call the LEASE team on 020 7374 5370.