A tenant who holds a long lease of a flat in a block or an estate will be required to pay a service charge relating to their proportion of the cost of maintenance for certain specific items such as, the upkeep to the common parts of the block or estate. The cost associated with these service charges are often unfortunately the subject of litigation proceedings.
At Grant Saw we are experienced in acting for landlords, Management companies and Managing agents seeking to recover unpaid service charges on their behalf. Occasionally we accept instructions from leaseholders.
Why would someone need this service?
We are instructed by landlords to seek payment of service charges that have fallen due from tenants who either refuse to pay the charges or simply ignore the fact that such charges are in existence. Occasionally, tenants refuse to pay service charges due to their belief that this will force landlords to undertake a course of action which the tenant wishes the landlord to attend to.
How does the process work?
Initially we will write to the tenant to request payment of the outstanding service charge and seek payment of the sum due within a period of 7 or 14 days. If this does not result in payment, we will consult with the landlord with regard to taking further action.
If Court proceedings are issued which are undefended, a County Court Judgment for the monies due and/or a declaration that the service charges are payable will be requested from the Court within 14 to 28 days after court papers have been served on the tenant.
If the Court proceedings are defended, we will consider the merits of the defence relied upon by the tenant. If the tenant’s complaint relates to the reasonableness of the charges levied, then usually this particular issue will need to be determined by the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal rather than a County Court.
How long does it take?
We will be able to send our initial letter of demand within one or two days after we are instructed to do so.
If Court proceedings are undefended, we would normally be able to obtain a County Court Judgment for the monies due and/or a declaration that the service charges are payable on behalf of the landlord within 14 to 28 days after Court papers have been served on the tenant.
If Court proceedings are defended then it may take several months for the claim to be determined by either the County Court or the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal.
Is it expensive?
We will provide our client with an estimate of costs at the outset. In some cases, (where the lease permits it) it may be possible to recover all or the majority of the legal costs incurred from the defaulting tenant.
What should people consider before calling?
It would be helpful if the lease and service charge documentation are all to hand when contacting us. Also if there has been any correspondence between the landlord and tenant concerning the service charges claimed this too should be provided.
Recovery of residential service charges myth busting
It is commonly believed that tenants are entitled to withhold payment of service charges if they are of the opinion that the landlord or managing agent is failing to carry out their obligations in the lease. It is often the case however that such action is not in fact permitted and the withholding of payment is a breach of the terms of the lease by the tenant.
Meet the Recovery of residential service charges team