Case Study 4: Service charges (assured tenant)

Ms A was an assured tenant who paid a fixed service charge. She complained about the landlord’s accounting for the annual service charge.

In February 2011, the landlord notified Ms A of proposed rent and service charges for the next year and provided details of the breakdown of the charge. Ms A disputed some of the charges and queried how the landlord had arrived at some of its costings and whether the service provided warranted the charges levied.

The landlord explained the breakdown to Ms A but she did not accept the landlord’s response, again questioning the accuracy of the explanations and asking for evidence to support the increased charges.

As Ms A paid a fixed service charge the landlord’s obligation was limited to providing an itemised summary of the charges; there was no obligation to provide detailed breakdown of the information as requested by Ms A. During the complaints process the landlord explained that it had assessed the charges and provided the breakdown in accordance with its policy. However, in the interest of improving its relationship with tenants the landlord would introduce measures to improve the standard and level of information available in future.

We found that this had not only resolved the dispute but also illustrated the principle of learning from outcomes. Although the landlord met all of its obligations Ms A’s complaint identified an area where it could improve its service, and introduced changes to do so.