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Kasare
Kasare, Solicitor
Category: Law
Satisfied Customers: 1301
Experience:  Solicitor, 10 yrs plus experience in civil litigation, employment and family law
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I have received notification of this year's service charge

Resolved Question:

I have received notification of this year's service charge which is the first time even though I bought my council flat 17 years ago. Can the council now demand 17 years of service charge back payment?
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Law
Expert:  Kasare replied 2 years ago.
hi thank you for your question, I will assist you with this but will need a little more information on the background to this matter.
Have the council sought to ask you for service charges prior to this? On what grounds are they now seeking payment of the service charge? Has there been any changes in the running of the properties?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.

Hi

No since purchasing the property I had never before been sent a bill or asked to pay service charges. I set up a direct debit for this year as my notification set out what the service charges were for however, I received a letter today to say I was in arrears so I rang to discuss which is when the council asked me if this was the first time I had paid service charges...

I am not sure why they are seeking charges from this year nor if there has been any changes in the running the property.

They did slightly mispell my name on the service charge notification but all other correspondence i.e. Council Tax have been spelt correct.

Expert:  Kasare replied 2 years ago.
Morning Maria, my apologies for not coming back to you yesterday, but I ended up caught up with a matter offline.
Usually when you purchase a such a property (a flat) you are informed that there will be service charges to be paid and you should make every effort to ensure that you remain fully informed about what these charges are.
All leaseholders are subject to service charges and ground rent for their property. These charges are for services provided by the council’s Housing Services. These include costs for repairs to communal areas, communal lighting, major works to the building and an insurance premium and the charges can vary from year to year.
You really need to set up a meeting with the council and find out what is going on.
Clearly you have not received any previous requests prior to this and therefore you should ask them for copies of all the correspondence that has been sent to you. The council usually bill the owners for the service charges and provide leaseholders like yourself with an estimated bill for the current financial year and a bill showing the actual charges for the previous financial year
Usually one is considered to be "in arrears" if the service charge payments are not paid within 30 days of being requested - not 17 years. Whilst councils procedures vary they usually have some procedure for arrears such as warning letters etc. It is very strange that you have not received any in all this time.
There is a limitation period for debts of 6 years. If the council has not sent correspondence or commenced proceedings against you in this time their claim is barred. Therefore they cannot seek to recover 17 years of service charges if they have not commenced legal proceedings and obtained a judgment some time ago.
The cause of action (when the limitation period starts running) for the council's service charge, is when the council first sent a bill to you. Unreasonable delays in sending bills could be grounds for making a complaint to the council and, if unresolved, the Local Government Ombudsman.
You need a full copy of all correspondence sent to you (many councils dont keep these) and a full financial breakdown of a) the service charges and b) the arrears.
I hope this assists. If you have any further questions, please let me know.
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