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Hi, thanks for your question. My name isXXXXX can assist with this.
Yes, you can ask for details of service charge spend and any adjustments, and this must be provided to you by law.
The Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 makes this a legal obligation.
Great. Can I ask more questions and explain my situation?
Yes, please do.
I received a letter from a debt collection company on Saturday, dated 27 March, giving me 7 days to pay £895.63. It includes £505.63 service charge adjustment, £240 late payment admin fees, £150 debt collection fee.
I have paid my service charge but dispute the service charge adjustment of 50% added on 27 September 2013 (for a neighbours roof leak which took 11 months to find and fix). I had a letter saying the insurance wouldn’t pay for the whole thing, but email replies saying the insurance paid for all but the scaffolding costs. Scaffolding and roof repair totalled £14,603 spread between 118 residents.
I asked for evidence of this bill back in October 2013. The management company have yet to provide this despite my reminders. They have, however, continued to remind me of the need to pay.
I did not receive any correspondence stating the work was to take place.
Can I: 1. Stop the debt collection company? 2. Dispute the £14k scaffolding charge, make them use the reserve fund? 3. Dispute the 11 month timescale due to poor management?
Okay so you're trying to make them comply with their obligations to give you the information?
Was there a s.20 consultation exercise in relation to any of the specific works for the £500 odd charge?
I received no letters related to the work before hand
first I knew about it was when I received the statement
admin fees were added during the wait for evidence
Then technically, their recovery is limited to £250 max. But even then, it needed to have been reasonable to incur this. A s.20 process must be carried out to recover more than £250. Have a look at this: http://www.hobdensmanage.co.uk/LAN07S20ConsultationandMajorWorks.pdf
That looks great!
Should I pay the debt collection company or is it a scare tactic. Maybe write a cheque with "paid under protest" on the back?
Or see a solicitor tomorrow?
They cant end your lease or forfeit until they've had the entitlement to recover this determined in court or a tribunal. However, they can add late payment fees, so the best thing often to do is to pay the sums claimed (if you can - saying you do not believe you're liable to pay the sums and you intend to challenge the entitlement to charge you), then issue a claim in the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal and ask them to determine what you owed.
There is some guidance on the leasehold valuation tribunal here: https://www.justice.gov.uk/downloads/tribunals/residential-property/leasehold-valuation-tribunals.pdf
So basically pay it now, then get it refunded later.
Can I get the debt collection company's £150 fee back too?
If they were not entitled to it, i.e. they were wrong to demand the money from you, then you should be able to get it back, yes. You may have to issue a county court claim against them to do that though later. It's a nightmare with all the hoops you have to jump through, and these comapnies know that of course!
You have been sooooo helpful! Thank you so much.
You're very welcome. Can I ask if you're happy with the service you've receiving this evening?
:) Fabulous! Thank you, XXXXX XXXXX a great weekend!
You too. Do I need to pay more or is that it?
One last extra thing (hopefully).
Is there a clause where an addition to the service charge, like my neighbours roof leak, is deemed too urgent to send letters to leaseholders prior to work taking place? Which might put the service company in the right.
No, the charge always has to be "reasonable" and nothing can change that. It might be that it was urgently necessar to spend the money, thus making it reasonable to incur it. But, there can never be anything that takes out the requirement for reasonableness.