Challenging Building Management Costs

So I was wondering if anyone here had experience or wisdom when it comes to challenging building maintenance fees.

A bit of background… The guy who owns the freehold for my building bought it a couple of decades ago, converted it into 4 flats and has sold all 4 over time (last one to me in Sept 2018) and was renting them before they were sold.

He’s the director of the management company. He does the gardening and cleaning, then bills us for that.

Here’s the 2017 bill:

And the 2018 bill:

Now, I’ve not seen any cleaning done. He cuts the lawn monthly in the summer, but there’s no winter gardening. I’ve seen no work or maintenance done to the building at all.

Also notice the management fees have jumped from £70 to £400 in a year which has left no surplus at all.

What can I do to start challenging him?

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Hi,

Government says he has to show you a breakdown of these costs and receipts to prove it,

Read further down the page also.

Independent advice https://www.lease-advice.org

Hope you get this sorted , its practically extortion

The info should cover freehold maintenance also.

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I read that I need at least 50% of flats on board of we want to take over the management of the building. I know one guy really well who I know has beef. The other two I need to chat to (one I’m on hi / bye terms, the other I never speak to).

I know it sounds minor but when questioning the charges, you should also query why 40p from last years surplus hasn’t been carried over - and depending on the date of the 2018 bill, it should be actual charges not estimates, given it’s now 2019…

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I think you need two thirds.

If you do have the majority, it’s actually really straightforward

https://www.lease-advice.org/advice-guide/right-manage/#3

You might also consider group buying the freehold as well, if the leases are getting a bit short.

About 980 years on them still! Think they were renewed in the 90s.

I wasn’t sure if the leaseholder can charge us ground rent if he wished to.

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Without seeing the lease it is hard to say exactly what the freehold owner can and can’t charge for. Although it can generally be assumed he is ok to charge “maintenance”.

If the lease allows for that charge - you can contest it at a Tribunal - and argue that it isn’t “reasonable” for the charge to go from £70 to £400 (a 470% odd increase).

But before any of that I’d suggest just questioning the bill in the first instance.

EDIT: the freeholder has to by law show you receipts/ documentation for the £400 management fee - if he doesn’t he is committing a criminal offence.

Landlord should definitely be charging a ground rent. It’s pretty murky if not…

For greater detail, try this wonderful read

https://www.rics.org/uk/upholding-professional-standards/sector-standards/real-estate/service-charge-residential-management-code/

It actually has plenty of stuff for every leaseholder

Agree that it is pretty standard for a Ground Rent to be charged - but the lease will say whether or not they do - so again I would just double check your lease!

Just had a look at my lease. It’s a peppercorn rent, so he just doesn’t collect it.

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He could just send you a bill every six years. Depends how small the amounts are.