Question: We are considering buying a new-build holiday flat in Cornwall in a very smart development where there will be a tennis court, spa, gym and landscaped grounds. The site office/agents are being very vague about service charges, which we realise are likely to be high in view of the facilities. Friends recently bought a new-build flat for their daughter and have ended up paying a huge service charge which they were not anticipating. Does everyone pay the same service charge? It's just that the apartments all vary in size.
Answer: A landlord can levy a service charge in return for services they provide. The proposed new lease should contain provisions regarding the service charge, such as covenants on the part of the landlord to maintain the spa and other facilities, and for the general maintenance and upkeep of the whole development. The lease should set out how the charge should be paid, and whether the landlord can appoint managing agents.
These provisions should confirm how the service charge is calculated. It may, for instance, be by reference to the number of bedrooms or according to the floor size, and so will vary according to the type of apartment.
As this is a new build, the costs of the services to be provided are not yet known but will be anticipated by the landlord, so you should ask to see the budget for the provision of services. After all, on an older property you would be able to look at the previous year's accounts and see what was paid.
These answers can only be a very brief commentary on the issues raised and should not be relied on as legal advice. No liability is accepted for such reliance. If you have similar issues, you should obtain advice from a solicitor.
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We regret that questions cannot be answered individually but we will try to feature them here. Fiona McNulty is a partner in the residential property, farms and estates team at Withy King LLP (withyking.co.uk).