Residential Service Charges: What if you think the charge is excessive?

Aug 4, 2020

Tenants will be familiar with their Leasehold requirement to make payment of service charges, which are used by Landlords to cover the costs of providing services in relation to their property. Examples of those services often include the cleaning of common parts of a building, the maintenance of an elevator servicing each floor to a property or payment of a concierge’ salary.

While service charges are an accepted requirement when purchasing a Leasehold property, there are occasions when the amount of the service charge just seems too high.

Further, Landlord’s cannot simply ask for payment for new work in the service charges if it will cost more than £250 per leaseholder. Where Landlords seek to increase service charges for work conducted by more than £250 per Tenant, they must first serve notice on each Leaseholder follow a set consultation procedure. If they fail to consult, Landlords and Tenants cannot simply issue county court proceedings for a disputed sum either.

There is a prescribed procedure to follow which starts with an Application to the Property Chamber First Tier Tribunal (Tribunal) usually by a Tenant, which enables the Tribunal to determine whether the service charge being claimed is in fact reasonable.

There are several factors of reasonableness which a Tribunal will consider when making its decision The first factor being whether a cost a Landlord has included in the service charge demand has been reasonably incurred.

The Tribunal decision in Forcelux Ltd v Sweetman and Parker [2001] confirmed that the test for recovery of service charges under a Lease was firstly whether the charges had been ‘reasonably incurred’ and not whether they were simply ‘reasonable’. Thus, a Tribunal will first want to see evidence of why a Landlord has included certain items in its service charge demand before any further factor is considered.

Although Forcelux Ltd related to a dispute regarding insurance premiums under section 19(2A) Landlord & Tenant 1985 Act; the decision applies equally to service charges.

Once a Tribunal has considered factor one, it will then give weight to the following factors,:

 – Whether the costs included in the service charge were of themselves reasonable; and

 – Whether works or services to which the charge relate were of a reasonable standard.

The Tribunal will consider all the evidence presented to it when making its decision.

Application to the Tribunal

Either a Tenant or Landlord can apply to the Tribunal for a decision as to whether a service charge, or proposed service charge, is reasonable. The application can be about work a Landlord has already paid for, services or other charges being proposed or in respect of a future service charge budget report which is contested.

Once all factors of reasonableness outlined above have been considered in full the Tribunal will make a Decision as to whether the service charges demanded must be paid in full or only the sum it has decided is reasonable.

Where a dispute arises regarding the level of service charges we can assist you in seeking to agree these charges or to  apply to the Tribunal on your behalf. If you want any help with service charge demands please contact us on

This reflects the law at the date of publication and is written as a general guide. It does not contain definitive legal advice, which should be sought as appropriate in relation to a particular matter.





























Latest Articles & Legal Insights

Update for Residential Landlords

Update for Residential Landlords

Landlords and Tenants will have been aware of the effect of the Coronavirus Act 2020 and the emergency rules resulting in…

Making a will via video technology

Making a will via video technology

As the eagle eyed among you may have spotted in the news, when it comes to making a will, the government has announced that it is legalising…

Sign up

Enter your email address for legal updates on Private Client & Family Law.

Please see our privacy policy regarding use of your data.

Top read insights in 2019

Contract Law

Material Breach of Contract

What is a ‘material’ breach of contract by a party to a commercial contract? This is a critical issue regularly considered by the courts. What constitutes a material breach and what are the remedies?

Property Law

Purchasing Land – Option Agreements

A developer and a landowner can enter into an Option Agreement. What are the strategies that can be employed by both landowners and developers to assist in such land deals?

Divorce and Family Law

What are the Tax Implications of a Civil Partnership?

Is there a significant tax saving to be made by a couple who are married or in a civil partnership that cohabitating couples simply don’t qualify for?  

Land & Property Dispute

Restrictive Covenants – The Price of Modification

Having identified that your land is burdened by a restrictive covenant and for the purposes of this article the covenant in question will be that only one residential building can be erected on the land. What do you do next?

Wills, Trusts and Probate

Is my Will applicable to my Spanish property?

You must be careful when relying on an English Will in relation to your Spanish property.

Award winning legal advice

We are solicitors in Camberley, Wokingham and London. In 2019, Herrington Carmichael won ‘Property Law Firm of the Year’ at the Thames Valley Business Magazines Property Awards, ‘Best Medium Sized Business’ at the Surrey Heath Business Awards and we were named IR Global’s ‘Member of the Year’. We are ranked as a Leading Firm 2020 by Legal 500 and Alistair McArthur is ranked in Chambers 2020.

Awards | Accreditations 

Accredited Conveyancing Lawyers
Accredited Immigration & Asylum Lawyers
Accredited Conveyancing Lawyers
Accredited Immigration & Asylum Lawyers


60 St Martins Lane, Covent Garden, London, WC2N 4JS 

+44 (0) 203 755 0557



Building 2  Watchmoor Park, Riverside Way, Camberley, Surrey. GU15 3YL

+44 (0)1276 686 222



Opening Soon

+44 (0)118 977 4045

© 2020 Herrington Carmichael LLP. Registered in England and Wales company number OC322293.

Herrington Carmichael LLP is authorised and regulated by the Solicitors Regulation Authority.

Privacy   |   Terms and Conditions   |   Cookies   |   Client Feedback