Service Charge disputes are one of the main causes of landlord and tenant disputes – but landlords are obliged by law to present the Service Charge under the terms of the lease and also make available to leaseholders the accounts which comprise the annual services charge.
Leaseholders should also be given notice of any extraordinary repairs and maintenance charges, including repairs carried out as an emergency.
Extraordinary repairs may also be paid for under insurances – which leaseholders pay for. Therefore any additional charges for “emergency repairs” or “extraordinary repairs” must be accounted for under the Service Charge, with accounts available to show what these involved and how much they cost.
The service charge should reflect the true costs of expenditure on a property – with tenants paying a percentage under the lease.
However, in some cases, tenants feel that their landlord and its agents are profiting by the Service Charge by overcharging for maintenance, services or administration.
The sort of disputes that may arise over a Service Charge include:
If a Service Charge is not served correctly within the law, then tenants may not be legally obliged to pay it – especially if no breakdown in costs has been attached and the relevant accounts have not been made available for inspection.
Tenants usually only have a short time in which to dispute a Service Charge – and taking legal advice from a specialist housing solicitor can help resolve disputes without having to refer the matter to the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber – Residential Property).
This has replaced the Land Valuation Tribunal (LVT), which used to deal with Service Charge disputes. Tenants should remember, however, that if a case is referred to the Tribunal, legal costs might be even higher if a landlord appoints its own solicitor and the tenant is required to pay costs.
Duncan Lewis advises both landlords and tenants on service charge disputes – including representing clients at the First-tier Tribunal.
Duncan Lewis can also advise on alternatives to litigation or the First-Tier Tribunal in Service Charge disputes, including mediation and dispute resolution.
Duncan Lewis housing solicitors advise both landlords and tenants in housing and property matters, including landlord and tenant disputes and Service Charge disputes.
Duncan Lewis is usually able to offer a Conditional Fee Agreement (CFA) or a set fee for housing and property cases – as well as a set fee for the initial assessment of a case, so our clients know exactly what they will be paying.
For expert legal advice on Service Charge Disputes, call Duncan Lewis Housing Solicitors on 020 7923 4020.