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Service charges for communal areas of which i have no access.

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Sunday 23 September 2007 2.21pm
Hi, I am new to this site and am hoping for some advice. I live in a shared ownership masionett which is part of a block which comprises of 10 dwellings, 5 on the ground floor, 5 above. Recently over the past 3 years the service charges have been increasing. My issue is that the highest increases are for the cleaning and maintance of the internal areas. The internal areas refered to are the stair blocks to the dwellings above me. The front door to my home is entered via the street and i have no acess to the stair block infact the stair block has a security door that only the above residents have keys for. Is it right that my service charge requires me to pay for the upkeep of areas that are not part of my property or areas discribed in my charge breakdown that are common even though i have no access or use of?
Sunday 23 September 2007 4.26pm
You'll need to check your lease on this one, it's all in the small print. It's worth checking, as you are also probably paying for that door entry system as well.

If you find you are paying, write and ask them to reconsider. We got the cost of a none existent TV aerial removed. However, if it's in the lease, and they won't reconsider, you'll need to get legal advice on whether you have a case.

As your door is off the street, I'm presumbing you don't have any cleaning done at all. It does seem very harsh to make you pay for a service you won't ever receive. Ground floor residents have to pay for lifts, even when they don't use them, so maybe it's following that principal.
Sunday 23 September 2007 5.32pm
The service charges you are paying would have been stated in your lease, which your solicitor would have gone through with you when you purchased the flat.

I would think there is very little you can do about this - this type of service charge applies to most apartment blocks, whether shared ownership or not
Sunday 23 September 2007 6.58pm
Thanks for your reply

I believe in my lease it says that i am responsible to pay an equal share of all the charges and i did not even think about it to begin with. It is only since these charges have now become the most expensive item on the statement that i've started to wonder if this is correct or fair. Would or should my solicitor when reading though my lease have been looking to see that my property had access to all of the areas that i was to be charged upkeep on?

I would like to know if anybody knows if there is a legal definition of "common area" in your lease and service charge. I would have thought it would be an area which everybody in the block has access to or use of. My home is one of 5 on the ground floor. All have doors directly onto the street and the stair block for the 5 dwellings above us is a seperate structure to the side of our homes with a walkway to the top floor homes.

Is it stupid for me to think that the five homes above me should be paying a service charge worked out for the areas that they use and the people on the ground floor have a sperate service charge for the areas they use. remember i can not even enter the stair block as it has a security door which only the upsatirs people has a key for.

Thanks for any replies this is my first home
Monday 24 September 2007 3.18pm
Hi Dave,

The charges in your service charge have to be reasonable. If you believe they are unreasonable you can apply to the Leasehold Valuation Tribuneral to have the reasonableness of the charges assessed. Am about to do the process myself.

You can also get advice from the Leasehold Advisory Service who can also advise on how to initiate mediation as an alternative to a full Tribuneral.

Equally a letter to your management company telling them that if they don't proactively limit the charges to the pro-rata of those which directly affect your property might just do the trick.

Monday 24 September 2007 5.09pm
Just to add to what has been said above, the charges have to be reasonable (as Michelle says) but, if the lease provides that charges are shared equally between the flats, then even though you do not and cannot use the services on the first floor, the chances are that they will stand.

S18 of the Landlord and Tenant Act(the reasonableness requirement) cannot normally override the terms of the lease.

This is an argument that very often comes up in relation to lifts or garage facilities, where ground floor residents/parking space owners say they shouldn't have to pay for lift maintenance/garage upkeep for example. This is even where access to the garage is controlled, so only parking space users can access it.

See here for example.

However, you may have some luck in persuading your management company to change the basis of allocation. Your chances will be better if you can get all of your neighbours that are similarly affected to band together on the issue. LVT is another option, but may be a long shot depending on the precise wording of your lease.

Do you still have the report on title that your solicitors prepared for you at the time you brought your property. Is the equal nature of the service charges split clearly set out in the report - and the fact that you may not benefit from all of the services? What information did they get on your behalf from the managing agents? If they didn't explain the position clearly, you may have some recourse to them.

This is becoming a regular issue with the amount of new developments with shared ownership or key worker housing (Dave, not sure if you are in such an arrangement) and the Leasehold Advisory Service would be my first port of call because I'm pretty confident they will have some experience about this type of thing:

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