Advice on leasehold properties from Reading Conveyancer

Although the owners of freehold houses in Reading will rarely be concerned about maintenance or service charges on their property, they are often a major headache for owners of flats and similar leasehold properties in the Reading Area.

Conveyancing Solicitors in Reading acting for buyers of leasehold properties will therefore invariably ask for details of any such charges which the seller has paid in the last few years, and whether the seller has encountered any problems with the management of the property.

Reading Leasehold Service Charges

Owners of some freehold properties in Reading, however, may have to pay some form of charge for maintenance of areas which they share with other property-owners. Examples of this include former Reading Council houses where the Council (at the Civic Centre, Reading, RG1 7AE) may carry out such services as grass-cutting on amenity areas.

Charges may also be encountered for houses on modern developments, such as Kennet Island and The West Village, which may include both leasehold and freehold homes, and where the freeholders have to contribute to maintenance and repair of shared roadways and other areas which can be used by the occupiers of all properties. In most cases these charges are quite modest, but Conveyancing Solicitors will still normally require details so that they can advise their clients.

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Flat-owners generally have to pay service charges when their freeholder or other landlord is required to carry out repairs and maintenance to the structure of the building and shared areas. The freeholder will then recover the cost of this from all the flat-owners in the building. Many flat-owners do not actually pay any service charges even if their leases contain provision for this; typically the owners of self-contained maisonettes will each be responsible for their own part of the building, and where the freehold of a small block of flats is owned by the flat-owners they will often not carry out any extensive work and recover costs.

Service charges are usually a significant item for Reading flat-owners when their property is in a larger block which is managed by a commercial landlord or agents appointed by the landlord. These companies will arrange for regular maintenance to be carried out, together with ongoing services such as cleaning, gardening, and lighting of any shared areas. They will also arrange the buildings insurance.

The cost of these services is then recovered by regular service charges from the flat-owners, which will include a share of the fees charged by the management company for managing the building. These charges will also often include a contribution to a reserve fund (or ‘sinking fund’) which is intended to cover the cost of substantial works which are only required occasionally, such as external decorating.

Unfortunately, some landlords (or their managing agents) are very good at collecting management charges, and not doing anything much for their money. Some agents do little more than arrange the buildings insurance (for which they probably get paid a commission on the premium), collect the flat-owners share of the premium, and then levy a management charge which exceeds the amount of the premium!

Although flat-owners may not be able to do much about this, advice on owner’s remedies can be obtained from the government’s leasehold advisory service.

If you are selling a leasehold flat or other property which is subject to service charges, your Conveyancing Solicitors in Reading will need to contact your landlord or their agents for copies of the previous years’ service charges, together with the estimate for the current year, and a copy of the buildings insurance policy.

This is another service for which commercial management companies will make a charge; you can expect to pay in the region of £200 to £300 although some companies charge more. This is an expense that will fall on sellers, and it is unlikely that it can be avoided.

Click to instruct a Conveyancing Solicitor in Reading, or call our team for further advice on 0330 660 0286.