Service Charges - Opinions appreciated

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Friday 3 January 2014 8.20pm
This has nothing to do with service charges in SE1 per se, so James if this thread needs to be moved - my apologies!

My sister lives in Bedford, and has a 12th floor flat in a tower block with approx 120ish flats within. It has a tiny gym and a large 'welcome' area on the ground floor (no concierge or security at all), but other than that, no 'luxury' facilities. The building is very badly maintained by anyone's standards and currently, her service charge is on a par with mine - and I live in Metro Central Heights in The Elephant.

Her building is maintained by a company called Mainstay who appear to be increasing the service charge at every given opportunity for no real, or justifiable, reasons. She's been living there for just over a year, the service charge has gone up nearly 33% in that time, yet - for example - they've been running on half a boiler for the entire 100+ flats for the last 6 months. My point is, the astronomical service charge doesn't appear to be fed back in to the building itself.

I'm sure many of us suffer the nausea of the ever increasing service charge, but what my sister is paying really does seem beyond the pale. I'm really worried about the financial implications it's having on her, and I'm also concerned about the legalities of these charges/price rises. Do any of you have any experience with a) Mainstay, or b) fighting service charges in general? Any pointers would be hugely appreciated. My sister is talking about involving a solicitor, but currently (unsurprisingly!) can't afford it!
Friday 3 January 2014 9.45pm
It's a long a rocky road and best to get as many of the leaseholders involved as possible, but you may need the Property Chamber which is where these matters are ruled on.

Here's an "QUANGO" that can give advice for free, though tends to be a bit non-committal.

My one piece of advice is, don't start unless you really think you've got what it takes to see it through! It's more energy, time and stamina than money so get plenty of people to work together.

Best of luck.
Saturday 4 January 2014 7.33pm
Thank you, GrangeLady - That's really useful, and very much appreciated. My sister is currently setting up a bit of a committee where she lives, so hopefully some teamwork will see this through to a happy ending.
Wednesday 8 January 2014 8.20pm
Our Citizens advice bureau has a service for leaseholders - might be worth asking locally

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