Service charges – what does this include?
Your lease or service agreement sets out the services we provide, our obligations as a Landlord to you and your obligations as a leaseholder. Here are some examples of what may be included within your service charge:
- Day to day repairs to the structure and communal parts of the building
- Grounds maintenance
- Cleaning of communal areas
- Fire safety – including smoke detectors / dry risers to communal areas
- Health and Safety – inspections and resultant upgrades to communal areas
- Communal lighting and/or heating
- Lift – contract/repairs
- Door entry – contract/repairs
- External redecoration / internal communal redecoration
- Buildings insurance
- Major repairs or improvements
- Management fee
- Ground rent
- Audit fee
- Estate management company charges
- Sinking fund* (if provision has been set for your block/lease)
*A ‘sinking fund’ is money which is set aside to contribute towards work for on a property/area in the future, planning ahead for renewals and replacements, as the building or area ages. Such funds are quite common with leasehold properties. An advantage of this being collected as part of a service charge, is that expenses are pre-planned. Not every block or property has a sinking fund, your lease and service charge estimate/actual will show if there is a sinking fund provision.
Freeholders – If you live in a house and have bought a 100% share, you may still be required to contribute towards estate services, such as grounds maintenance or other communal services. You may still have an agreement to pay a pay an estate or service charge to Worthing Homes.
Service charges explained – estimates and actuals
We send out a service charge estimate every February, detailing the estimate of what we expect to spend on services for the upcoming financial year (01 April to 31 March). The estimated service charge will vary from year to year and we will look at factors such as previous years actual costs when putting an estimate together.
In your service charge estimate, it will show how the costs are shared within your block or estate.
Your estimate will not contain any Section 20 major works costs that may be planned, as this is something we consult with you separately about.
At the end of the financial year, the actual expenditure is collated and this is then checked by an independent auditor.
After the account has been audited and checked, we send you a copy of the actual service charge expenditure, which is usually sent out in the September.
Your actual statement will also include any additional costs for any major works or cyclical programmes carried out (section 20 works) during that financial year, for which we will have consulted with you separately about.
The cycle of service charges
*Please note If you are a Leaseholder at either Cambourne or Dene Court, the financial year runs from 01 October to the 30 September for these two blocks. Estimates are sent out in August and actuals are sent out in March.
We will send you a statement of account twice a year. This statement will show charges and payments made during the year. You can request a copy of your statement at any time by contacting us.
Service charges – frequently asked questions
What happens if a service charge has been overestimated?
Where we have overestimated we will generally arrange a refund back to you within 4 weeks, unless there are arrears on your account.
What happens if a service charge has been underestimated?
If the actual expenditure is greater than estimated, we will ask you to pay this difference, being the balance outstanding for that financial year.
If costs for section 20 works have been included, this may be a why there is a difference between your estimated and actual costs, as section 20 works are not included within your estimate.
Who is responsible for payment of the actual service charge, the current or the previous leaseholder?
The person responsible for paying any underestimated service charge, is always the current leaseholder on the date that the actual service charge statement is issued.
Paying your service charges
We expect your service charges to be paid in full, at the beginning of each month or quarter when your service charge payment is due, or as prescribed in your lease.
- We offer a wide range of payment methods (see Payment methods)
- Our Financial Inclusion team are on hand to offer advice about money worries, benefits and budgeting advice.They hold a weekly ‘Money worries’ drop-in, every Monday from 9am – 12pm at the resource centre which is next to our offices in North Street, Worthing; you can also contact them by calling 01903 703 110 or drop an email to financial inclusion
- We will make contact with you if you miss a payment. If you fail to pay your service charges we have an arrears recovery procedure, recovery action may include contacting your mortgage lender (if you have one), and it may also include:
- Applying to Court for a money judgement order
- Attachment of earnings (deduction from salary/ wage at source to pay Worthing Homes);
- Third party debt order (freezing bank account – to set up a debt order to ensure payment is made to Worthing Homes as soon as salary reaches bank account);
- Applying for a charge on the property.
Failure to pay your service charges can ultimately lead to forfeiture and the loss of your home.
Payment difficulties – if you are having difficulty making payments, please contact our Leasehold Services Team. We are here to help and we will treat you with respect. In certain circumstances we may be able to agree a repayment plan.
Service charges – summary of rights and obligations
We have to enclose a summary that sets out your rights and obligations in relation to variable service charges, when we send you a request for payment.
You can view these here.
Service charge queries or disputes
If you have a query or dispute with your service charge please contact us. We will discuss your concerns, and we will try to resolve and conclude the situation within 4 weeks. If the matter is more complex and it will take longer than 4 weeks, we will let you know and keep in touch with you.
While the matter is being investigated you should continue to pay your service charge as specified in your lease, unless we have agreed to put the specific charges you are disputing on hold. You will not be able to put the whole of your outstanding service charge on hold, while the investigations are taking place.
We will only normally deal with disputes relating to your actual service charge. However, if your enquiry is about an estimated service charge, we will decide if it is appropriate to issue a revised service charge estimate or wait until the actual service charge has been finalised and audited, depending on the nature of the enquiry.
Once the investigation has been carried out, we will notify you in writing of the outcome and we will give you the opportunity to discuss the matter with us if you need to.
Estate management companies
It is very common on new build developments for Estate Management companies to maintain and look after areas within a development, of which you as a home owner, leaseholder or shared owner will be responsible to pay a service charge for.
Examples of what type of services may be included within an Estate Management company charge are:
- Street lighting maintenance and repair where these are on un-adopted highways.
- Maintenance of un-adopted roads, visitor bays, drainage maintenance (i.e. any drainage issue on non-adopted areas).
- Estate gardening of specific areas as identified by the conveyance plans as provided by the developer.
If you pay your Estate Management charge via Worthing Homes (as part of your service charge), and you have any feedback regarding the service being provided, please contact our Leasehold Services Team. We will speak to the Estate Management Company on your behalf, to discuss any issues or concerns, or share good feedback.
If the area in which you live is not managed by an Estate Management Company then our neighbourhood team for your area and our neighbourhood warden will be regular faces as they look after our homes and communities.