Q&A - How can I find out what my service charges are being used for?

Q:  I lease a house on a gated development where I pay a monthly service charge in addition to ground rent. The service charge, used to pay for street lighting, upkeep of communal gardens etc, has just been doubled despite there being no tangible increase in the services provided. How can I find out exactly what my service charge is being used for?

A:  Under Sections 21 and 22 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (LTA 1985) you as the tenant have the right to request a written summary of the service charge account and to inspect receipts, accounts etc relating to the last accounting year, or where accounts are not kept in accordance with accounting years, the 12 months preceding your request.

You should write to your Landlord or Managing Agent requesting a summary under Section 21 LTA 1985. The summary should be provided within one month of your request (or within six months of the end of the accounting period, whichever is later) and should be certified by a qualified accountant if there are more than four dwellings on the development.

Once you have received the summary, you have the right under Section 22 of the LTA 1985 to inspect further documents to provide more detail on the summary. Within six months of receipt of the summary, you may write to your Landlord or Managing Agent requesting access to inspect the accounts, receipts and any other documents relevant to the service charge information provided in the summary. Facilities for inspecting these documents should be provided within one month of your request and should be made available for two months. Additional rights to information may be available to you under the terms of your lease and other legislation such as the Freedom of Information Act 2000 which gives you the right to access recorded information held by public sector organisations.