When you buy a flat you are buying only a part of a larger building or block of flats. The owner of the block is the landlord (the Council) and retains responsibility for all shared parts and services.
Your lease is a legal agreement between you and the Council. It sets out details about:
- Your rights and responsibilities
- The Landlord’s rights and responsibilities
What are you required to do?
In signing your lease, you have agreed to certain covenants (promises). These include your responsibilities as a leaseholder. Your responsibilities depend on what is stated in your lease. Generally you are required to:
- Pay a proportion of the Council’s costs towards managing, maintaining and repairing the block.
- Pay the annual ground rent and service charges for which you are liable for when requested.
- Keep your home in good repair and condition.
- Use your home only for residential use.
- Avoid causing annoyance or inconvenience to your neighbours.
- Not to carry out any structural alterations or improvements without the Council’s prior written consent.
- Repay any discount if you sell your property within 5 years of exercising the Right to Buy
- Obtain the Council’s written consent to erect an external aerial or satellite dish.
- To allow CBH/CBC access to carry out any repairs/maintenance
Your rights include:
- Use of any part of the estate or block that provides access to or from your home.
- Access to water and electric supply for your flat or maisonette.
- The right to live peacefully without having to suffer any nuisance, assault or harassment from neighbours.
What is the Council required to do?
The Council’s obligations are set out in the lease and generally include:
- Keeping the structure of the block in good repair and condition.
- Insuring the block, including your flat but excluding personal belongings, against any loss or damage by fire and other risks.
The Council’s rights
This depends on the lease, but generally the Council or its managing agents Cheltenham Borough Homes has the right to:
- Run and maintain electricity cables or water and gas pipes from any part of the estate or block through your flat or maisonette.
- Enter and remain in your home for a reasonable period, subject to reasonable notice, to carry out works to the common parts or structure.
- Extend or carry out alterations or improvements to the block or estate including your flat or maisonette.
- Close, divert or alter any roads, footways or gardens on the estate.
What are service charges?
Service charges cover the cost of maintaining the block of flats and estates where you live. Your bill, issued annually in arrears, may include charges for:
- Communal repairs, maintenance and improvements
- Lighting and cleaning of communal areas and footpaths
- Cleaning/fly tipping
- Lift maintenance
- Grounds maintenance
- Administration and Management fees
- Buildings insurance and ground rent
What is ground rent?
Ground rent is the charge you pay once a year for renting land on which your property stands. It is a small charge (£10) that does not change. This is billed separately and is payable in advance.
How is the service charge worked out?
As a leaseholder, your lease requires you to pay a reasonable proportion of the costs incurred in managing and maintaining the block where you live and the surrounding estate. Your charge is normally calculated by splitting the cost of the work by the number of properties in the block. So if a repair cost £100 and there are 10 flats in the block, you would pay £10 towards that repair.
The buildings insurance premium and the Council’s management fee are also included in the service charge.
When does the service charge have to be paid?
The service charge year runs from the 01 April to 31 March next. Charges for the previous 12 months are calculated based on actual expenditure on services. Invoices are normally dispatched in May and are due for immediate payment.
If major works have taken place you may be presented with an invoice on completion of the works. We will provide you with a statement showing the cost of the work and then this charge will be included on the service charge invoice along with the other service charges.
How do I querying my service charge?
If you have any queries about your service charge, you should let us know. We will provide you with as much information as possible to support the service charges. You are entitled to inspect tenders, supporting documents and statements relating to your invoice. To do this, you will need to make an appointment with Cheltenham Borough Homes.
Limits on Service Charges
The Council will send a bill for services and other work not longer than 18 months from the date or providing the service or carrying out the work. We can only send a bill after 18 months if we have informed you in writing that there will be a delay.
Limits during the initial period
When a tenant first buys the lease, they are given an offer notice. This notice includes estimates of general repairs, services and details of proposed major repairs and improvements. The Council cannot charge you more than the estimates plus inflation for work carried out in the initial period. The initial period generally lasts for 5 years from the date the lease was first purchased. When this period has run out the council can charge you your share of the reasonable cost of the work.
Your lease agreement gives full details about repairs and maintenance. If you’re not sure who is responsible for a certain repair then contact the Repairs section on 0800 408 0000 and we will be able to advise you. If you are in any doubt, do not start any work on the repair before you talk to us.
Which items are your responsibility?
You must keep the inside if your home in good condition and keep any garden to the property neat and tidy. You are responsible for any repairs including:
- Window glazing (but not the frame).
- Ceilings (but not the joists or beams).
- Internal doors.
- Plaster and other surfaces to floors, walls and ceilings.
- Water tank (if this applies to your property only).
- All plumbing and electrics (if it applies to your property only).
- All fixtures and fittings including bathroom fittings (except those which are part of a shared system eg door entry phone).
- Boiler and heating systems (if it applies to your property only).
- Internal decorations.
Which items are the Council’s responsibility?
The Council will repair and maintain the structure/fabric of the building, the shared/communal parts of the building and the surrounding areas. This includes:
- Some inside walls and all outside walls.
- Joists, beams and lintels.
- Doors in communal areas and all door frames.
- Window frames and furniture.
- Your front door.
- Roof, including coverings and supports.
- Gutters and outside pipes.
- Outside and main drains – which serve more than one flat.
- Lifts (including lift servicing).
- Shared fixtures and fittings eg door entry phones and shared TV aerials.
- Estate roads and paths.
- Shared/Communal gardens and car parks.
Remember… even though the Council is responsible for certain repairs, you will still be charged a proportion of the cost of the work in accordance with the terms of your lease (see service charges).
Transferring your Lease
If you purchased under the Right to Buy and you transfer or sell the lease to someone else within five years, you will have to repay some of the discount you received. The Council will reduce the amount you have to pay by one fifth for each full year that has passed since you bought the lease.
First Right of Refusal
If you are looking to sell your property within the first 10 years from the Right to Buy date, you are required to offer it back to the landlord (CBC) under the First Right of Refusal which is detailed within the property Deeds.
It is a statutory requirement for the First Right of Refusal Offer Notice to be submitted by a set template. Please contact our Leaseholder Officer on 0800 408 0000 so the First Right of Refusal documentation can be sent to you for completion. CBH will respond within 8 weeks of the date of the offer notice.
Selling your property
The leaseholder or appointed solicitor will need to request a Leaseholders Management Pack which is required when selling your home. There will be a fee of £90, for more information please contact our Leaseholder Officer on 0800 408 0000.
You must pay any bills you owe before you move out, including any service charges and ground rent. You must also ask your solicitor to contact us before the lease is transferred. The lease will not be transferred until the service charge account is clear. We will then sort out any charges you still owe and check that you have met the conditions for selling your lease.
Solicitors acting for the new owner of the lease must inform the Council that the lease has been transferred within 21 days of signing the papers. We charge a fee of £10 for any legal notices on the property.
If you wish to sublet your home, please write to us requesting permission. This must be done as it affects your buildings insurance. We must also have an address and phone number where we can contact you. You should also check your mortgage agreement to see if it includes any conditions about subletting. Make sure that you have a suitable tenancy agreement between you and your tenant.
Remember, you may not be living at the property, but the lease is in your name and you are responsible for the property and the way your tenants behave.
As your landlord, the Council insures against loss or damage to the structure of the property on your behalf. If the unforeseen happens, the property can be rebuilt or repaired. This policy includes events such as fire, riot, storm or flood damage. You pay your proportion of the premium through your annual service charge bill.
Making a Claim
If your property is damaged by any of the insured perils, please telephone the Leasehold Officer who will provide you with a claim form. If the claim relates to vandalism, please, if possible, get a police incident number to include on your claim form. However, if you were only made aware that a repair was caused by vandalism when you received your annual service charge bill, you will still be able to make a claim for your portion of the charge.
Home contents insurance
We strongly recommend that you take out Home Contents Insurance as we cannot help you if your personal items are damaged.
CBH can make it easy for you to insure your belongings under a special household contents insurance scheme. The insurance is arranged with Aviva, and is available to tenants and leaseholders of CBH. The cost of the insurance premiums is payable weekly.
To find out more call us on 0800 408 0000.