3. Service charges and other expenses

Service charges

Your lease sets out the way the service charge is organised and what can be charged. If you pay a service charge, you have the right to:

  • ask for a summary showing how the charge is worked out and what it’s spent on
  • see any paperwork supporting the summary, eg receipts

Your landlord must give you this information - it’s a criminal offence if they don’t.

Ground rent

You don’t have to pay ground rent unless your landlord has sent you a formal, written demand for it. They can take legal action if you don’t pay after you’ve received the demand.

Your landlord can recover unpaid ground rent going back 6 years - they can ask you for the full amount in one go.

Your landlord can only increase the ground rent if you agree to the increase or the lease says this can happen.

Building insurance

Your landlord will usually be responsible for insurance of the building (not the contents) - this will be part of your service charge.

You have a right to:

  • ask for a summary of the insurance policy
  • challenge the cost through a tribunal if you think it’s unreasonable

Reserve or sinking funds

You might have to pay into a fund to help cover any unexpected maintenance or repairs, like replacing the roof. There are rules about how landlords must manage these funds.

You won’t usually be able to get back any money you pay into them, eg if you move house.

Consulting over charges

You have the right to be consulted about charges for running or maintaining the building if you have to pay more than:

  • £250 for planned work
  • £100 per year for work and services lasting more than 12 months

There are steps your landlord must follow when they consult you, known as a ‘Section 20’ consultation. There’s a limit on how much you have to pay if you haven’t been consulted properly - contact Leasehold Advisory Service for advice.

Disputing a charge

You may be able to apply to a tribunal if you pay a charge and you:

  • think it’s unreasonable
  • think the standard of work it relates to is unsatisfactory
  • don’t think you should be paying it at all

Contact Leasehold Advisory Service for advice.

You can’t apply to the tribunal if:

  • you’ve agreed to pay the charge
  • the dispute is already being dealt with, eg by the court
  • you pay a fixed charge

Try mediation - you may also be able to change the management of your building instead.

Your landlord can take you to court if you stop paying a charge you’re responsible for.

More information

The Leasehold Advisory Service has more information on service charges and other issues.