Properties Murdoch Square

Service charge FAQs

As part of our consultation about proposed changes to services charges in January 2022, we put together answers to Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs).

If you are a resident of Brighter Places and pay service charges, we sent you a letter. This explains proposed changes to the service charge from 1 April 2022. The service charge is a separate payment to rent.

If you have any questions you think we should add to this list, get in touch. Email us at: engagement@brighterplaces.co.uk

 

 

 

  • 1. Why am I paying a service charge on top of my rent?

    The rent you pay covers the services we provide for you in your home. Your rent payment includes things like repairs, managing your tenancy, collecting the rent you pay and dealing with any issues of anti-social behaviour (ASB).

    Service charges are for services we provide for you outside of your immediate home. Typically, these are shared with other residents in the immediate block or area, for example, a lift in a block of flats, or communal cleaning or grounds maintenance.

  • 2. Do I pay for day-to-day repairs in my service charge?

    If you are a tenant, an amount is included in your rent to cover the cost of repairs within your home.

    If you are a shared owner/leaseholder the responsibility for repairs is a condition of your lease.

  • 3. I believe I am being charged for services that I don't receive. What should I do?

    Please get in touch by email so we can look into it. Tell us your name, address and contact details and tell us about your service charge, and why you are concerned.

    engagement@brighterplaces.co.uk 

     

     

  • 4. What is the actual cost of the services I receive?

    The service charge is based on the actual spend on each service. 

    We need to cover the costs of providing the services. We are not allowed to make a profit.

    Because we don’t know our actual spend until after the financial year ends (the year runs from April to the end of March) and our accounts have been examined by external auditors, we have to work out any the difference between what we predicted (and billed to you) and the actual spend.

    If we spent more than we charged you, this amount is added to your service charge for the next financial year.

    If we spent less than we charged you, this amount is taken off your service charge for the next financial year.

    The same accounting process is done every year.

    This is explained again in the answer to the question ‘Why have my service charges gone up?’

  • 5. Why am I paying an amount for electricity or water when I pay my own bills for these services? That means I'm paying twice!

    If your bill shows an amount for electricity, this is for the communal supply of electricity, for example, for lighting in shared halls or stairs, or for powerering the lift.

    Water charges on your bill will be for water provided for cleaning or other purposes in communal areas.

  • 6. Why have some of the charges gone up?

    We review the costs for providing each service. Then we compare it to the amount we charged you for that service in the previous year.

    If it turns out we have paid more than we billed during that year, we carry the extra amount forward and add it to your charge for the coming financial year.

    If we have paid less for a service than we charged, we take that amount off your charge for the coming year.

    So, for example, if we paid £50 more than we charged for a service between April 2021 and March 2022, then we add the £50 to the service charge bill for April 2022 to March 2023.

  • 7. Why is my service charge different to my neighbour's?

    Some parts of our services may be different from property to property.

    For example, a door-entry system may be provided for some flats in one block but not in another block because there each flat has its own front door. This will result in different charges.

  • 8. Will any increase in service charge be covered by housing benefit?

    Most services charges are covered by housing benefit. So any increases will also be covered by housing benefit.

    Services not covered by housing benefit are mainly services that are personal to the customer, for example, personal water consumption and furniture charges (Rackfield House).

    We write to the local authorities in areas where we have homes to confirm the new charges from April.

     

  • 9. I claim Universal Credit/housing benefit. What do I need to do?

    Your Universal Credit or housing benefit claim is your responsibility.

    Universal Credit

    The rules for Universal Credit (UC) are slightly different to housing benefit, but most service charges are still covered by the housing element of UC.

    Action: If you are claiming or being paid Universal Credit you must send the Department for Work and Pensions a copy of the rent review letter that we will send you by 1 March 2022. This is to make sure they pay you the correct amount. If you do not tell them about any changes to your rent or service charge, you could lose benefit to which you are entitled or have to pay back any overpaid benefits.

    More information about UC is available on the government website.

    Housing benefit

    If we receive housing benefit direct from your local authority (in other words, your council), we will notify them of the change to your rent and service charge (where relevant).

    Action: However, you must always send your local authority a copy of your rent review letter to make sure they pay you the correct amount of housing benefit.

    You should talk to the local authority straight away if you think you are getting the wrong amount of benefit. If you do not tell them about this change, you could lose benefit to which you are entitled or have to pay back any overpaid benefits.

  • 10. What is the external management fee?

    Some of our properties are within larger estates where we are not the only landlord or registered housing provider.

    In this situation, the area or estate might be managed by an external company that is separate to Brighter Places.

    We will be charged a fee for our properties and any  shared estate services that they manage, and we show this cost in your service charge as ‘external management fee’.

  • 11. What is the Brighter Places management fee?

    As a registered housing provider, we are allowed to charge what it costs us to arrange and manage communal services.

    For example, we might meet with our cleaning contractors on a monthly basis, or go to tender for a new grounds contractor.

    This work is covered by a management fee to reflect our costs to employ people in this role.

  • 12. I'm unhappy about the quality of services provided. Who can I contact?

    If you are unhappy with the services being provided, for example with the cleaning or grounds maintenance, we would like to know.

    We meet with contractors regularly and, if we believe the service is not as good as it should be, it really helps us to have real examples.

    So if you are seeing problems, get in touch with us as soon as possible. You can email us at:

    engagement@brighterplaces.co.uk

  • 13. My neighbours and I want to clean the communal areas ourselves, instead of paying for a cleaning service. How do we do this?

    We are happy to consider an arrangement for a group of residents to clean a communal area themselves. All tenants within the block do need to be in agreement.

    You can email us at:

    engagement@brighterplaces.co.uk

  • 14. When are the consultation meetings and how can I attend?

    Virtual online sessions

    Due to Covid we are unable to hold drop-in sessions at our office and replaced this with online Zoom sessions.  These are 30-minute consultation meetings within 2-hour time slots (see below) where you can talk to one of our team from customer services and finance.

    We are really happy to answer questions, and we welcome the opportunity to explain anything that is not clear. 

    If you cannot use Zoom for a video call online, you can talk to us on the phone.

    To arrange a meeting

    Send your name, address and contact details, together with your preferred date, by email to

    engagement@brighterplaces.co.uk

    We will confirm your meeting date and time and send a Zoom link by email a few days before.

  • 15. Can I have the letter in another format?

    Yes. If you or someone you know have difficulty reading the letter and need another format (larger print, braille or another language) please email us and we will seek a solution.

    engagement@brighterplaces.co.uk

     

  • 16. I need more help. Can I have someone talk to you on my behalf?

    If you need further help to understand the information about your service charge or rent, and want someone to talk to us on your behalf – for example, your support worker or a friend – please get in touch. Please email us at:

    engagement@brighterplaces.co.uk