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Service charges challenged at Tribunal – £11k reimbursed

Chris T owns a flat in Horley in Surrey. He got advice from LEASE that helped him reach a good outcome. He shares his story below.

“My landlord issued a Service Charge Actual (SCA) in which the charge for “Communal Electric Bill” (CEB) was £8000. As the estimate for this (annual) CEB was £800, I took action. I own a leasehold flat in a block of 18 flats. The CEB is for internal and external lights to three 3-storey stairwells, and to lights at the ends of the block. Inspection of the invoices showed that the meters in two stairwells had been regularly read and averaged £275 per stairwell. The remaining £7450 for my block comprised estimates varying from £24 to £552 stretching back to the last (and only) reading – over 3 years before the start of the SCA. “Citizen’s Advice” examined the lease and noted that costs have to be “reasonable”. They recommended contacting you. I received great advice about the 18 month rule.

I applied (Mar 2017) to the 1st Tier Tribunal Court and was advised that a “paper decision” was scheduled. Just before that was due (Aug 2017) the landlord agreed to re-imburse £11,500 in the latest SCA. The Court’s Consent Order supported this, and also said that my court fee be paid by the landlord, and that the landlord’s legal fees can not be charged back to the block – all enforceable in the County Court.

I spent £125 on paperwork (4x100pp bundles) and took 130 hours. I was aware that these costs were to be born by me. I thank the internet – and my partner – for help to go it alone (I could not afford legal fees).

LEASE is governed by a board, appointed as individuals by the Secretary of State for the Ministry of Housing, Communities & Local Government.