Service charges

Service charges cover the costs of maintaining communal areas for your estate and/or block.

You can find more details about service charges and the different types you might come across by reading our frequently asked questions below.

What do my service charges pay for?

Service charges cover the costs of maintaining communal areas, including any block or estate costs. For example, grounds maintenance, cleaning or repairs in areas that are shared with other residents.

An estate can include a number of houses and/or one or more blocks. A block is a group of properties which share a roof (for example, a block of flats). 

The service charge for your property may include costs for a particular service at both estate and block level. You’re only charged for services that are carried out on your estate or at your block, and costs are recharged in line with what it says in your tenancy agreement, lease or freehold transfer.

To find out more information about what services are included under each heading, please see our headings factsheet here.

What’s the difference between a variable and a fixed service charge?

All residents who have service charges will receive a statement annually, setting out the estimated costs for the next year.

Variable service charge

Some of our previous tenancy agreements will specify that you pay service charges on a variable basis. This charge occurs when we set an estimated charge at the beginning of the financial year and then produce a final account once the year is complete.

This final account compares our actual costs in delivering services to a home against the estimate that we set. This may result in you needing to pay extra or getting some payment back as a credit.

Generally shared owners, leaseholders and freeholders will pay service charges on a variable basis, as set out in your lease. There is some specific service charge information relevant to shared owners, leaseholders and freeholders here.

Fixed basis

Some residents pay a fixed service charge. The services they receive are the same, but residents on a fixed service charge aren’t credited or charged any difference between the estimated costs and actual costs.

Most tenants will pay on a fixed basis, although some of our previous tenancy agreements will specify that your service charges are variable.  There is some specific service charge information relevant to tenants included here.

If you’re not sure whether your service charges are on a variable or fixed basis, please contact us.

How do you calculate the estimated costs?

If the service is contract based (such as grounds maintenance, cleaning, health and safety costs) then we know how much these are likely to be increased by each year as part of the contract. 

If the service is for a cost which can vary (such as utilities) we’ll base the estimated costs on the actual cost of the service in previous recent years.

For more information about estimated costs for 2022-23, please see here if you are a tenant, or here if you are a shared owner, leaseholder or freeholder.

How do I query my service charges?

If you’re unable to find the answer to your question here, then please contact us. Your query will be forwarded to the appropriate team who will get in touch with you directly. The more information you can provide about your query will help us route it to the right team for a quicker response. If you need a more immediate answer, please call our customer contact team on 0300 5000 926.  

A copy of our service charge policy is available here.

What should I do if I’m not satisfied with the level of service provided by a contractor?

Please contact us at the time the service is provided, so that our team managing the contract can work with you and the contractor to resolve the issue. We’re less likely to be able to investigate and resolve this if it’s reported to us much later on.

Do I need to tell Housing Benefit or Universal Credit about any changes to my service charges?

If you’re receiving Housing Benefit (whether this is paid directly to us or to you), or Universal Credit and your service charges or your rent amount changes, you’ll need to let them know straightaway. 

They’ll then re-assess your entitlement and there may be a delay while they change your payments, but don’t worry, this is normal. You can find more information on claiming Housing Benefit here, or information about Universal Credit here.

I’m struggling to pay my charges – what can you do to help?

We have people you can talk to for help if you’re having problems paying your charges; need other money or financial support; or help with work and training. Please contact us and somebody will get in touch with you directly.