As your landlord, Gateshead Council is responsible for maintaining the exterior and shared areas of your block; and as the managing agent, The Gateshead Housing Company is responsible for the services provided to your block and any repairs to these areas.
As a leaseholder you have to pay a share of these costs, which are referred to as service charges.
We will send out two service charge bills each year. The estimated bill is sent in February, and is an estimate of how much we expect it will cost to provide services to your block of flats. This will include building insurance and ground rent. This bill can be paid over 10 or 12 monthly instalments.
You will receive your actual bill in June each year, which will show the actual amount spent on each service for the previous year.
Any outstanding amount due must be paid within 21 days.
We offer a wide range of payment methods so that you can choose a method that is best for you. This includes Direct Debit, standing order, payment cards for use at local shops or housing offices and telephone or internet payments.
If we write to you about your service charges we will explain clearly why we are writing.
We will also give you a named point of contact within the Leasehold Services Team who you can speak to about any queries or concerns about your service charges.
If you fall into arrears with your service charges we will write to you within the first month that your payment is overdue requesting that you contact us to discuss your account.
If you are having difficulty paying your service charges or any of your household bills, we can refer you to independent free debt advice services.
If we need to take any action for outstanding service charge arrears, we will always attempt to speak to you first and will write to you before we take legal action.
We will always write to you to tell you the outcome.
If you disagree with the cost or quality of the services provided you should raise a ‘dispute’ with the Leasehold Services Team.
We will acknowledge your dispute and respond within two weeks. If you do not agree with our response, you may want to have your case heard by the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal.
The Leasehold Valuation Tribunal is an independent agent who will decide whether the service charges are reasonable.
Our service standards
- Send you an annual estimated service charge bill, which will include details of how the charge has been calculated, in February
- Send you a statement of your service charge account, including all income received and adjustments made, every 13 weeks
- Send you a service charge certificate and balance of your account, detailing expenditure incurred in June
- Respond to all ‘disputes’ within two weeks and ensure that all decisions made are referred back to individual departments to ensure improvements to services
- Monitor service charge payments on a monthly basis to ensure we provide early intervention and support when accounts fall into arrears.
How we measure them
- Check that accounts are issued and monitored within timescales
- Ask our customers if they are satisfied with account information
- Monitor the percentage and amount of service charges collected on a monthly basis
- Monitor disputes to ensure they are responded to within timescales and feedback on the improvements made through reviewing the disputes
- Report back to our customers through our Service Improvement Group, in our newspaper and on our website.