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Service Charge Accounts – A Complete Guide

Published by Prasun Shrestha
Published Date: April 27, 2023

A service charge account is an account which shows the allocation of Service Charge collected by landlord or property management companies. The Service Charge collected is typically deposited into a separate bank.

When it comes for residential properties in the United Kingdom, property management companies or Resident Management Companies (RMCs) must adhere to a number of legal regulations and compliance requirements. But first let’s define it:

01

Property Management Companies

The service charge collected from the tenants is deposited in a Trust set up especially to be used for the maintenance of the Residential Property. The service charge is administered by a Property Management company which has no relation with the tenants.


The Property Management Companies are under instruction with the Tenant Association. Property management companies act as intermediaries between property owners and tenants, ensuring that the property is well-maintained, and the interests of both parties are protected.

02

Residential Management Companies

Residential Management Companies (RMCs) are specifically focused on managing the common areas and services of leasehold residential properties in the UK.


Unlike Property Management Companies, which handle the overall management of residential or commercial properties, RMCs specifically deal with the administration, financial management, maintenance, and compliance of shared spaces and services within a specific residential development.


RMCs are funded through service charges collected from residents and play a critical role in ensuring the smooth management of communal areas for the benefit of all residents.


RMCs are typically owned and operated by the shareholders, who are also leaseholders within the development.

Service Charge Accounts - Regulations and Compliance

Service Charge Accounts preparation and management require legal knowledge. The Landlord and Tenant Act of 1985 governs landlord and tenant rights and service charge management. It specifies when landlords or RMCs must give leaseholders or tenants a service charge summary and other relevant information.

Another important law that regulates service charge administration is the 2002 Common hold and Leasehold Reform Act. It addresses service charge reasonableness, leaseholder consultation on major works or long-term agreements, and the right to challenge service charges before the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber).

These statutes are supplemented by the Service Charges (Resident Management Companies and Leasehold Reform) (England) Regulations 2020. These regulations govern service charge transparency, disclosure, and leaseholder consultation.

Non-compliance with these legal regulations may result in costly and time-consuming penalties, fines, or lessee disputes. Property management companies or RMCs must understand the legal framework and comply with all laws and regulations when preparing and managing service charge accounts.

Budgeting and Cost Allocation: Calculating Service Charge Contributions

Service charge accounts cost allocation

Service Charge Accounts cost allocation and budgeting are crucial. Resident Management Companies (RMCs) must create a detailed budget to maintain and manage the property's common areas and amenities. Cleaning, repairs, insurance, utilities, and management fees are included.

The budget should include current and projected expenses. It should also be fair, ensuring that leaseholders or tenants pay service charges proportional to their property ownership.

Service charge contributions must be calculated clearly, consistently, and legally. Any budget or cost split changes should be communicated to leaseholders or tenants immediately and clearly. This will inform them of their service charge accounts duties.

Service Charge Accounts need a budget and cost allocation to be transparent, fair, and accountable. It ensures that leaseholders and tenants receive fair service charge payments based on accurate cost estimates. This supports residential property finance.

Preparation of Service Charge Accounts

Although Section 21(5) of the Landlord and Tenant Act (LTA) of 1985 requires that a summary of costs be provided upon request by a lessee, there is no standard accounting method for service charge statements.

Major accounting organisations like the Association of Residential Managing Agents (ARMA) and the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) advise using the accruals method to prepare service charge accounts. These accounts ought to have a balance sheet for the service charge fund, a breakdown of the revenues and expenditures, and explanations of the numbers.

Records must show the precise amount held in trust for each property, the service charge plan, and the amounts demanded and paid in advance by, or due from, each lessee. The preparation of the accounts on a cash basis, however, may be necessary for some leases.

Manage Your Service Charge Account with Ease 

Let our team of experienced chartered accountants handle your service charge accounts and streamline your accounting process by ensuring compliance with regulations.

According to the property lease(s), the service charge statement must always include a breakdown of the expenses related to the property that were incurred during the accounting period. Explanatory notes should also be included, if necessary, along with any adjustments to reserves that represent costs not considered in the income and expenditure account.

Understanding the Difference between Service Charge Accounts and Expense Account

Understanding the contrast between Service charge and expenses account

Service Charge Accounts

  • Property management companies use service charge accounts to manage building maintenance. Tenants or leaseholders pay a service charge to cover management company services like cleaning, landscaping, and security. The service charge account tracks service charge income and expenses like salaries, equipment, and supplies.

Expense Account

  • The expenses account records property maintenance, repairs, utilities, and taxes. The expenses account shows the property owner or management company's property maintenance and operation costs, unlike the service charge account, which focuses on tenant income.

In summary, the service charge account covers property management income and expenses, while the expenses account covers property ownership and operation costs.

Note: Understanding the differences between these two types of accounts is important for property management businesses to accurately track their finances.

Take a look at our "Service Charge Accounts vs Expense Accounts" article where we explore the key differences between these accounts and how it applies to you.

Collection and Management 

how to ensure collection and management of service charge fund

Collecting and managing service charge funds is crucial when creating a service charge account for a residential property in the UK. Leaseholders or tenants who pay service charges typically do so to cover costs such as cleaning, repairs, insurance, utilities, management fees, and upkeep of the building's shared amenities.

To make it simple to collect service charge money, property management companies or resident management companies (RMCs) frequently set up a separate bank account.

ensuring service charge management is transparent and accountable

This ensures that service charge management is transparent and accountable and makes it simple to keep service charge money apart from other accounts. Tenants or leaseholders typically receive demand letters or invoices for their service charge payments. These inform them of the amount owed, the due date, and the appropriate payment method.

To make it simple to collect service charge money, property management companies or resident management companies (RMCs) frequently set up a separate bank account.

service charge money being handled with care is essential

Once the service charge money is received, it must be handled with care to ensure that it is only applied to the costs specified in the budget, as intended.

Good financial management practises, such as comparing bank statements, keeping track of expenses, and maintaining current accounting records, are crucial for the accurate management of service charge funds.

Interest-bearing service charge funds must also be properly recorded and used in accordance with the law.

importance of being compliant with the law in service charge accounts

It is crucial to collect and manage service charge funds in a way that is open, accountable, and compliant with the law when setting up a service charge account.

It assists in ensuring that there are sufficient funds available to cover the expenses outlined in the budget and that service charge payments are only applied to the purposes for which they were intended.

Expense Tracking and Record Keeping 

In order to effectively manage a service charge account for residential properties in the United Kingdom, it is imperative to maintain precise records and diligently monitor expenses. 

These two components are crucial for ensuring the smooth operation of the account. It is of utmost importance to maintain accurate records of all expenses related to the service charge account.

This ensures transparency, accountability, and compliance with legal requirements. When it comes to effectively managing your expenses and maintaining accurate records with Service Charge Accounts, there are a number of crucial factors that should be taken into consideration.

Ensuring Transparency and Accountability 

Transparency and accountability through financial reporting are crucial to managing a UK residential service charge account. Leaseholders or tenants must receive financial statements from property management companies or Resident Management Companies (RMCs) detailing the service charge account's income and expenses.

managing UK residential service charge account

Financial reporting requires detailed statements of service charge account inflows and outflows. Depending on legal requirements and the leasehold agreement, leaseholders or tenants should receive these statements annually or quarterly.

The financial statements should show service charge income and expenditure, including all contributions received and all expenses for communal area maintenance and management. Cleaning, repairs, insurance, utilities, and management fees should be itemised with receipts, invoices, and other financial records.

  • Financial reporting transparency lets leaseholders or tenants know how their service charge funds are being used and ensures they are. It also lets leaseholders or tenants ask questions about the service charge account and resolve any discrepancies.
  • Financial reporting holds property management companies (RMCs) accountable for their service charge account management. Proper financial reporting helps to establish trust and confidence among leaseholders or tenants, as they can verify that their service charge funds are being managed in a responsible and compliant manner.
  • Financial reporting ensures transparency and accountability in service charge fund use. Financial statements that clearly explain the service charge account's income and expenditure help leaseholders and tenants trust residential property management.

Leveraging to Enhance the Quality of Your Property

A UK residential property owner or manager sets up a Residential Service Charge Account to pay for services like cleaning, gardening, common area maintenance, and insurance.

UK property owners can benefit from Residential Service Charge accounts:

 cost sharing

Cost-Sharing

Residents can pool resources through the service charge to maintain and improve their property's common areas. This keeps maintenance and repairs affordable for everyone.

Transparency

The lease or tenancy agreement should define the service charge, and residents should receive regular statements of account. This lets residents see what they're paying for and how.

transparency
professional management

Professional Management

Most service charges are managed by a professional managing agent, who will spend the money according to the lease or tenancy agreement. Residents can relax knowing their property is well-managed

Improved property value

 A well-managed Residential Service Charge account can maintain and improve the property's common areas, increasing its value and appeal to buyers and tenants.

improved

A Service charge account allows residents to easily and transparently share the cost of maintaining and improving their property.

Commercial Property Service Charge Accounts

Service charge accounts in commercial properties can cover a wide range of services, depending on size and location. The property management company or an appointed accountant manages the service charge account, which tracks income and expenses. Management companies must report to tenants and leaseholders on service charge funds in the UK.

Residential Property Service Charge Accounts

Residential service charge accounts are typically used in apartment buildings and other residential properties. Residential service charges cover building insurance, common area maintenance, and communal gardens and grounds.

Commercial service charges cover more. Residential service charge accounts are regulated differently to ensure leaseholders receive detailed accounting statements and fair and reasonable charges.

Conclusion

Service charge account management can be a lot easier with the help of an expert. This is true for both property owners and managers. 

Our Service Charge Account Product is designed to streamline the process, ensuring compliance, accuracy, and efficiency. Let UK Property Accountants handle your service charge accounts with precision, so you can focus on growing your business with peace of mind. 

Prasun Shrestha
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