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FAQ's

Service charges explained

We believe you should enjoy your home, safe in the knowledge the money you spend on maintenance and the upkeep of your property is being well spent. So here’s a handy guide to weighing up your fees.

Service charges and management fees fund the costs of maintaining the development in good order and to a standard you expect.

Here are the answers to common questions you may have on your service charge:


What is the Service charge?

Your service charge is the money you pay towards the day-to-day running costs of your development. Every resident pays a service charge and the money is used to cover items such as buildings insurance, maintenance, repairs, gardening and communal facilities.

The service charge would also cover the costs of any onsite staff. In independent retirement living developments this would normally be your Development or House Manager. In general residential developments these could be caretakers or concierges; for large, complex estates this could include a Development Manager and a team of concierges, cleaners and handypersons.


When is the Service charge paid?

This depends on your lease or transfer in England or Wales, or your Deed of Conditions in Scotland.

You may be required to pay your service charge once a year, twice a year (usually every six months) or occasionally in monthly instalments. If you aren’t sure when you should pay your service charge:

If you live in an independent retirement living development please get in touch with your Development or House Manager for details

If you live or own a property in a general residential development, please get in touch with your Customer Services team


What is the Service charge based on?

The service charge is based on an estimate or budget we prepare each year of all the running costs relating to the communal areas of your development. These could include a number of elements. Some of the most common are:

Landscape maintenance – such as cutting the grass, maintaining communal gardens, watering and sweeping

Lighting, heating and cleaning of communal internal areas

Window cleaning – specific to each development, but would typically include all external windows as well as internal windows in communal areas

Lift maintenance

Fire equipment maintenance

Other electrical and mechanical equipment maintenance – specific to each development, but this could include items such as water pumps, electrically powered entry or security gates, communal heating boilers etc

General repairs and maintenance

Salaries of any onsite staff that are employed specifically to work for the development

Buildings insurance – in the case of apartments, full buildings insurance is required under the terms of the lease to cover the risks relevant to the development. Standard insurance risks might include fire, explosion, lightning, aircraft, terrorism, storm or flood, sprinkler leakage, subsidence or landslide etc


Ground rent explained

What is ground rent? (only applies for leaseholders in England and Wales, not Scotland)

Ground rent is the money you pay as a leaseholder to your landlord, annually, for living at your development. Either we will collect this money on the landlord’s behalf or, more usually, the landlord will invoice you directly.


Service charge budgets

How do you work out the annual service charge?

For newly built developments, the service charge is based on estimated costs. We make every attempt to make sure the budget is accurate and as close as possible to actual costs.

For established residential buildings, developments and estates, the previous year’s costs are used to prepare the estimate for the coming year.

We have no control over charges such as VAT, so we can only anticipate what this is likely to be. For utility costs such as electricity, we use our national buying power to negotiate competitive rates that are significantly lower than normal domestic tariffs. Our aim is to ensure all utility charges remain as low as possible.


When is the service charge worked out?

We prepare a budget based on the estimated service charges for the next financial year a few months before it starts.

If you live in an independent retirement living development you will be invited to a budget meeting, held by the Area Manager, where they will consult with you before the budget is finalised.

For residents in general residential developments we send your estimated service charges for the next financial year prepared by the Property Manager. They will be happy to answer any questions on the budget they have set for the year. Please get in touch with your Property Manager


Annual service charge accounts

How do you let me know how my service charge has been spent?

Following the end of the development's financial year the annual accounts are prepared and then audited by an independent firm of accountants. A summary is sent to every owner and the accounts will be fully explained.

There is often an adjustment to the service charge after the year end as it is unlikely that our estimate will equal the amount expended during the year.

This adjustment can be a credit if we over estimate or a debit if we under estimate. If we under estimate; an invoice will be sent to you for the balance due. If we over estimate, the adjustment are credited to your account and can reduce future invoices.

If you live in an independent retirement living development you will be invited to a residents’ meeting held by the Area Manager where you can ask any questions. We keep a record of all invoices and requests to see this information can be made at any time.

For residents in general residential developments the Property Manager will provide a summary of service charge expenditure for the financial year broken down by categories of expenditure.


Reserve Fund?

What are 'Reserve Funds' and what happens to the money collected?

We all think it’s generally a good idea to keep savings for that un-excepted expenditure and the proverbial 'rainy day'. That’s why we believe it’s sensible for a development to have its own 'Reserve Fund'.

So, Reserve Funds are collected to help contribute towards the cost of non-annual expenditure like major repairs, external and internal decorations and an amount is collected once a year so that money is accumulated.

The money is held in the same way as other service charge funds in a trust account with any interest being for the benefit of the reserve fund. The money can only be spent on your development.

Our management fee?

What does your management fee cover?

This is the fee you pay to Rylands Associates to cover the costs of a wide range of activities that we carry out to efficiently manage your development.

Financial

Annual budget review meetings with customers *

Preparation and issue of annual service charge budget

Administration of direct debit, debit/credit card, bank transfer and cheque payments

Well-managed contingency fund

Annual account liaison with external auditors

Arranging tenders for maintenance and repair work to be carried out


Communications

Production and distribution of printed helpful information for customers

Website and online account information service

Your property online development specific information service


Estate Management

Site inspections and development visits by your Area Manager (retirement properties) or Property Manager (general residential developments)

Regional Manager support

All onsite staff training and welfare (e.g. Development Managers, House Managers, concierges etc)

Company operating costs including staff travel, staff visits to developments and support centre overheads


Regulatory Compliance

Major works consultation

Health and safety

Industry codes of best practice:

Association of Retirement Housing Managers (ARHM) for independent retirement living developments

Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) for general residential developments in England & Wales. ARMA-Q is the new self-regulatory regime for consumer protection in the residential leasehold sector. It is based on standards developed specifically for the leasehold property management sector and independent regulation. All ARMA members now have to comply with the ARMA-Q Standards and a Consumer Charter

Property Managers' Association Scotland Limited (PMAS) who developments in Scotland

The Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) ‘Service Charge Residential Management Code’


Treasury

Development bank account interest paid to customers

All bank accounts held under a statutory trust

Safeguarding customers’ money

* For independent retirement living developments only

What is the difference between 'freehold' and 'leasehold'?

If you purchase a freehold property in England or Wales, you will own the home and the land it is built on. There may however be a freehold company who owns the estate areas, such as communal car parking or garden areas. If you buy a leasehold property you are actually buying the rights to live in a property for a set period of time. You won’t actually own the structure, or the grounds it is situated on. Most flats are leasehold.

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