Section 20 consultation 2018
We want to make sure that all our customers live in areas that feel comfortable, are safe and where they are proud to call home. To do this, we work to make sure that the common areas of the estates we manage are well maintained and that fire safety and security equipment is in place and working. The costs of doing this are included within your service charges.
To ensure that we are achieving value for money with these works, we review our contracts at the end of their term to make sure that a high level of service is being provided and that the service charges you pay are fair and reasonable. Section 20 of the Landlord & Tenant Act (amended by Section 151 of the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act) outlines how we must consult with our customers about any changes to these contracts.
Below are some commonly asked questions about the consultation. We will be updating this page throughout the consultation period, so please feel free to check back for the latest update. If your specific query is not covered here, please just get in touch by emailing ServiceCharge.TeamMaidstone@orbit.org.uk.
- Will the quality of the grounds maintenance improve?
We are taking the opportunity, whilst retendering the grounds maintenance contract, to look at how we can improve the overall level of our grounds maintenance services. Not only will we review the standard of work, but also the frequency of contractor visits and additional tasks that they may be able to complete to improve the overall look of your estate and/or block.
- What do grounds maintenance service charges cover?
Grounds maintenance service charges cover the costs of up keeping the grounds and trees around your home and within your neighbourhood. This could include grassed verges alongside the road, large and small areas of grass/green space and parking areas.
You may not have communal area areas directly attached to your home, but they still form part of your overall estate and the costs to up keep them are shared amongst all our customers living on the estate.
- Why do I have to pay for gardening costs when I have my own garden or I don't have a garden at all?
The gardening costs in your service charge relate to the maintenance of the communal outdoor spaces where you live, not just your own garden. These spaces can include green (grass, trees, and shrubs) and paved areas. The cost of maintaining these spaces is covered by us or our chosen partners, not the local council, and passed on equally to those customers who have access to and benefit from these spaces through the service charge.
- Why do I have to pay for rubbish removal and grounds maintenance/cleaning doesn't the council do this?
The council collects your household waste which is paid for as part of your council tax. However, they will not collect any waste that accumulates in the communal areas of your building or neighbourhood, this could be anything from litter to larger items such white goods or abandoned vehicles. If we can’t determine who illegally disposed of these items (this is known as illegal fly tipping), then the cost of removing these items is split equally across all the customers who live in the building and/or neighbourhood where the waste has been left. Therefore, it’s a good idea for you to not only dispose of bulky waste responsibly, but report illegal fly tipping to us when it happens. For more information about bulky waste and our illegal fly tipping reporting form, please visit our bulky waste page. Regarding grounds maintenance/cleaning, the council only maintains the areas that they own or have adopted. All other grounds within our neighbourhoods are maintained by us or our partners and the costs of delivering these services is split equally amongst the customers who live in that neighbourhood through the service charge.
- Do I pay for window cleaning and environmental cleans?
We will only charge you for the services we provide at your estate. With regards to window cleaning for example, charges will only be charged if we carry out window cleaning in your building. The same applies to environmental cleans (where we would only deep clean where needed to remove any potential bacteria).
- Why do I have to pay for play equipment when I don't use it?
If the neighbourhood where you live has a play area which hasn’t been adopted by the local council, we have to pay for the inspection, testing and repairs of the equipment and surrounding area. All customers have equal rights of access and use for these facilities and so the up keep costs are also shared equally amongst all customers in the neighbourhood through the service charge.
- Will these services be covered as part of my service charge?
Yes, your service charge covers the cost of providing shared services such as communal gardening, grounds maintenance, communal cleaning, bulk waste removal and fire and security system maintenance and the cost of providing and managing those services.
- Will the service charge be fixed?
No, the charge applied will be a ‘variable service charge’, which means that we estimate how much we expect the costs to be and at the end of the financial year we compare this to the actual cost and then send you a statement showing any surplus or shortfall. If we have overestimated, your statement will show a credit known as a surplus. If we have underestimated, the statement will show a shortfall known as a deficit.
Any surplus or shortfall will be carried over to the next financial year and included when we next estimate the costs.
- When will I know how much I have to pay?
We have included an increase in the ground maintenance budget which will cover the increased service standards. However, the actual costs of the service charge will be confirmed when we have finalised the tendering process and we will advise you of those changes in July 2018.
- What if I can't afford the service charge?
If you are in receipt of Housing Benefit or Universal Credit, the costs of service charges may be covered.
Financial advice is available free of charge from our money advisors who may be contacted by visiting our betterdays website or calling us on 0800 678 1221.
- Do I have to agree to the service charge?
No, your signed tenancy agreement outlines how we are legally able to recover service charges from you, but we still want to make you aware of those charges, what they mean and how they are calculated. We aim to be as fair and transparent as possible so that you clearly understand the changes and how they affect you.
- Why do I have to pay a service charge?
The service charge covers the cost of the shared services that we provide you as part of your tenancy, lease or transfer agreement. Shared services can include servicing or maintaining any communal areas, such as, corridors, staircases, shared outdoor areas or green spaces in your building and/or neighbourhood that are not managed by your local council. Shared services may also include installing, servicing or maintaining any equipment, such as, fire safety systems or security equipment in your building and/or neighbourhood.
- For further information
More information about service charges can be found on our rent and service changes page
This information is given as guidance, but you may wish to visit the Leasehold Advisory Service website. The Leasehold Advisory Service is an independent organisation set up by government to provide advice on Section 20 and a number of other property related matters. www.lease-advice.org