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As a leaseholder you have a ‘share’ in the building you live in. This means you have a responsibility to pay your share of the cost for managing and maintaining your building. These costs are called Service Charges and under the terms of your lease it is your legal duty to pay them.
What are service charges for?
Service charges are your share of the cost of maintaining the building you live in. Most leaseholders living in blocks of flats have to pay them because it is the only manageable way to share the costs of looking after the building.
Service charges usually cover things like repairs and services to communal areas, examples include providing lighting and maintaining communal gardens and lifts. You normally have to pay a share of everything even if you don't use some of the services. For example, even if you live on the ground floor and never use the lift, you will have to pay something towards its maintenance.
The amount you pay can vary from one year to the next ('variable service charges'). If you bought your home through the 'right to buy' the council would have provided you with estimated costs of repairs that may be carried out within the first five years of your lease. You cannot be charged more than these costs (plus inflation) during this time and the costs will be capped to reflect this.
When to pay
We send an estimated invoice and certificate in March, at the end of our financial year. The bill is based on last year’s actual bill. In September, when our accounts have been finalised and certified, we will send you a Certificate of Actual Costs. We will include an invoice for any balance outstanding, or a credit note if appropriate.
How to pay
Invoices should be paid within 28 days of receiving them. You can pay using the following methods:
You can send cheques or postal orders to: Birmingham City Council, Finance Department (Revenues), PO Box 4092, Birmingham, B4 7AD.
Cheques or postal orders should be made payable to: Birmingham City Council (Housing). Please write the invoice number on the back of the cheque or postal order and enclose the payment slip provided.
By debit or credit card
You can pay by telephone on 0121 464 9671. You will be asked to provide the information on your invoice and your credit card details.
If you prefer to pay by instalments using a payment book or by bank standing order please contact the Leasehold Team, details below.
How can service charges be challenged?
If you are not happy with the services you pay for, please write to us explaining the problem. If we disagree, or refuse to do anything to improve the situation, a The First-Tier Tribunal - Property Chamber (Residential Property) (FTT) can decide whether or not the services you receive are reasonable.
The services are poor
In some cases, leaseholders are charged for services that are provided very badly or not at all. For example, you may be paying for weekly cleaning but the building is not cleaned regularly. If you are experiencing problems with any of the services provided, please contact your local housing team and report the matter immediately.
The charges are too high
You are entitled to a written breakdown of your service charges to check whether the costs are reasonable. The council is entitled to add a management charge but cannot make a profit. You have the right to inspect and take copies of accounts, receipts and any other relevant documents.
What happens if I don't pay the service charge?
If you don't pay the service charge, the council can take you to court. The council has to follow special procedures ('forfeiture proceedings') and get a court order. If you find yourself in this situation because you haven't paid your service charge, get advice from a housing aid centre or citizens advice bureau immediately. Use our directory to find one.
What if I cannot pay?
Depending on your financial situation you may be entitled to some help towards your service charges from your Benefits Agency. Please contact them directly for further advice on benefit claims.
For a complete free and confidential advice, contact our Debt Advice Service.
Telephone Number: 0121 303 2147 / 2148