When you buy a lease for a flat or maisonette, you do not buy the flat itself, you buy a lease from the landlord, which gives you the right to live in the flat for an agreed period of time typically 125 years from when the first lease was granted in the block. So, if you buy a council flat, the council will continue to be your landlord but you will not have to pay rent, except a small amount each year, known as 'ground rent'. At the end of the lease period, the flat will go back to the council, unless you apply to extend the lease.
The lease is a legal agreement between you 'the leaseholder' and the council, giving details of the flat, a plan showing your home, the building it is in, the estate the building is on and any garden, shed or garage included in the sale. The lease will also explain your rights and duties and ours. Because your flat is part of a block of flats, you pay a share of the costs of maintaining the block and providing services such as grounds maintenance and so on.
These costs are called service charges and are for the following services:
The buildings insurance policy covers your flat and the block it is in. The buildings insurance policy does not cover your furniture or personal belongings.
We strongly advise you to buy contents insurance to cover your furniture and personal belongings.
The amount of service charges you pay depends on the number of flats in the block. It may also depend on when you bought the lease. We charge a management fee to cover all administration costs of working out charges, managing accounts, dealing with enquiries, supervising services and so on.
The management fee is charged in two parts, a fixed fee and a percentage fee. The fixed fee covers the leasehold-related costs of the Right to Buy and Leasehold Services team such as calculating service charges, producing annual Schedules of Service Charges, issuing invoices, dealing with queries, issuing Ground Rent Notices, payment reminders, producing newsletters, office overheads and so on.
The percentage fee is added to the cost of services such as, repairs and grounds maintenance to cover the cost of managing those services.
We include a separate administration charge in the cost of any major work we carry out. This charge includes the costs of paying consultants and surveyors, the costs of consultation meetings, newsletters, office overheads and so on.
There is more information on the back of each of your service charge invoices. Please write your service charge account number on the back of any cheques you send or the payment may not reach your account. Your bank may charge you for this service.
If you have any questions about your service charges or don't agree with any part of your charges, please write to our Leasehold Services team at Taunton Deane Borough Council, The Deane House, Belvedere Road TA1 1HE. The Leasehold Officer will deal with your enquiry.
If you have any questions about the services or repairs that have been or may be carried out to your block, telephone the Leasehold team on 07584 407978.
After you have contacted us, if you still think that part of your service charge is unreasonable, you can either make an official complaint or ask us to refer the matter to mediation with the independent Leasehold Advisory Service also known as LEASE.
What will happen if you don't pay your service charges?
Under clause 1 of the standard lease agreement, you must pay the following:
You must pay all of these charges even if we don't send you any bills. If you do not pay your service charges when they are due, you are breaking the contract that gives you your rights to the property.
We will send you reminders before we take any further action and give you the chance to explain why you are not paying the bills. If you disagree with any part of your charges, we will do our best to deal with the problem. If we are satisfied that services you have been charged for have not been provided to a reasonable standard, we will reduce the charges.
If we do not think that you have a good enough reason for not paying your full service charges, we may take action in the County Court to get the money from you and to take back the lease. If the court agrees that you have broken the conditions of your lease, you must pay the charges plus interest. You must also pay our legal costs.
If you do not pay within the time allowed by the court, we will apply to the court to repossess the flat and you could be evicted. If you lose your home in this way the council may not be able to find you a new home because you will be considered 'intentionally homeless'. So you must let us know why you are not paying your service charges so that any problems you are having can be sorted out quickly.
You have the right to extend your lease. This means you can buy a new lease to add another 90 years to the time left on your existing lease. You can get more information about this from the Right to Buy and Leasehold Services team. We ask for a deposit in advance for our administrative and valuation costs, before we can provide you with a price.