Frequently asked questions
A quick way of getting answers to some of the most frequently asked questions.
Why do shared owners pay rent and how is it calculated?
Shared owners own a proportion of their home (usually paid for through a mortgage) and rent the rest from us. Paying your rent is an important part of your lease. Rent is calculated according to the terms in your lease and increases are usually calculated using a formula based on the Retail Price Index for the previous September.
What are service charges?
Service charges are contributions towards the cost of looking after the communal areas of your estate and/or building. They help to pay for services such as general maintenance, lift maintenance, communal lighting and cleaning of communal areas. They might also include our management costs as well as any management costs from a managing agent providing services to the site. Our service charges are variable. This means that we provide an estimated charge at the beginning of the financial year and produce a final account based on the actual costs at the end of the year.
What is ground rent?
Most leaseholders have to pay ground rent as a condition of their lease. It is paid to the owner of the land your home is built on. The amount you have to pay and how you pay is in your lease agreement.
What are management fees?
These are the costs of managing the services to your home. Your lease will tell you if this charge can be made. Like all variable service charges, it must be reasonable.
How are management fees calculated?
The charges are in bands depending on how many services you receive.
If you already pay a management fee to managing agents for four or more services, we cap this fee at £50 (96p per week).
What is a sinking or reserve fund?
This is money set aside to help pay for major work we may need to do to maintain your estate or building. When major works are needed we will consult you under Section 20 of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985. In the absence of a sinking fund we would have to add the cost of any major works to your annual service charges as a one-off bill. You can find out more in your Homeowners Handbook.
Can homeowners in my block take over the management of the building?
The Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 gave a right to tenants of blocks of flats to take over the management of their building. You will need to make sure you meet the qualifying criteria. Find more information at http://www.lease-advice.org.uk/documents/Right to Manage.pdf
How do I buy extra shares in my home?
You can buy further shares in your home until you own the whole 100%. This is known as ‘staircasing.’ The more you own the less rent you pay. You can find out more in your Homeowners Handbook. If you decide you want to buy more shares call us on 0845 337 4877.
How do I sell my home?
The rules for selling your home are set out in your lease. If you want to sell, look at your lease in the first instance. There is more general guidance in the Homeowners Handbook. If you want to sell call us on 0845 337 4877.
What happens if I can’t pay my rent?
You have to pay your rent and service charges monthly by direct debit on the first day of the month. If you are struggling to pay for any reason you must contact us as soon as possible on 0300 303 1010.
What can I do if I’m not happy with the service I receive?
You can make a formal complaint by going to the Contact Us page on this website. For more information you can contact the Leasehold Advisory Service http://www.lease-advice.org/
What is your policy on fire safety?
Your local fire service will be able to offer clear advice about what to do in the event of a fire and the things you can do to prevent a fire starting in your home.
For example, see the advice from the Buckinghamshire Fire and Rescue Service Bucks Fire & Rescue Service | Home Fire Safety | Buckinghamshire & Milton Keynes
We carry out regular Fire Risk Assessments of blocks of flats where there are communal areas and entrances. Fire alarms and fire safety doors are checked monthly and all of our blocks have up to date assessments. Our Estates Officers carry out regular checks to identify any potential fire hazards and any emergency lighting and smoke vents are regularly checked by specialist contractors.
We install smoke alarms in all our properties but residents are responsible for maintaining them. The batteries should be tested once a month and replaced when necessary. There is more information on smoke, heat and carbon monoxide detectors here.
If you live in a block of flats, the following information is important:
- you will have been provided with information about evacuation procedures when you first moved in, and there will be signs in common areas providing escape information. Please make sure that you are familiar with it. The signs are checked by Estate Services staff regularly – please let us know if you can’t find the information
- don’t prop open fire doors – these are self-closing doors which prevent or slow down the spread of fire
- don’t use riser cupboards or communal areas to store your personal belongings – this may provide additional material to fuel a fire, or block escape routes or fire brigade access
- do not use lifts to leave the building in the event of a fire – use the stairs.