The Law & Property Accounts

Expert Service charge accounting demands 100% transparency, an understanding of the lease and legal requirements as well as being able to understand what value for money means. Collecting service charge arrears will be frustrated and can fail at Tribunal if the Service Charge Accounts are not right - and - a £2,500 fine applies if they are not produced.

The legal requirements around holding Client Money and particularly services charges is complex - we have expert advice on hand.

Service charge accounts are 'not for profit' and required by virtue of Landlord and Tenant legislation not company law. Service charge accounts should not be confused with accounts for filing at Companies House.

For blocks of flats the Company Accounts that are required for filing at Companies House may be 'dormant', 'abbreviated' or 'trading' company accounts depending on whether ground rent is collected, lease extensions have been sold or whether owners have clubbed together and bought the freehold.

Otherwise, the service charges you demand may not be due, and if you need to go to Court to seek recovery your service charge accounts, Freehold Company or Right to Manage Company accounts will need to hold up to scrutiny.

Here are some tips, you'll need:

To hold service charges in trust` *Section 42A Landlord and Tenant Act 1987
To split balancing charges *Section 21-28 Landlord and Tenant Act 1987
To prepare service charge accounts if there are 5 or more service charge payers *Section 21-28 Landlord and Tenant Act 1987
Not to collect reserves unless the lease allows
Charges may be unreasonable if they are a surprise or unusually high *Garside v RFYC Ltd
Charges may not be due if consultation notices are not properly served *Phillips and Goddard v Francis
Unless you seek retrospective dispensation from consultation requirements *Daejan Investments Ltd v Benson and others"
All parts of Section 20 consultation must have lapsed before demands become valid
Service charges will not be due until the prescribed summary of leaseholder rights & obligations is served *Section 21B Landlord and Tenant Act 1985
Demands may not be compliant if an address in England and Wales whereon to serve notices is not provided *Section 48 Landlord and Tenant Act 1987

Service charge accounts of schemes managed by ARMA members are normally subject to either an Audit or a Report of Factual Findings, depending upon the lease and the size and nature of the property/scheme. LAN 08 states that “all annual statements of account should be subject to an examination by an independent accountant before issuing to lessees”.

Accountants undertaking Audit for service charge accounts must be qualified to do so and must be members of the recognised supervisory bodies for company auditors (as listed in Appendix J of the ICAEW Technical Release Tech 03/11) who are entitled under the rules of the body to which they belong to engage in public practice.

The focus of accountancy qualifications from other accountancy bodies not listed in Tech 03/11 is not usually that of audit. The competencies to complete the second type of financial report that appears in the technical guidance - a report on factual findings - require an accountancy skill-set (albeit that there is no requirement to be a statutory auditor under the Companies Act). It is essential that ARMA members who are in a position to appoint a reporting accountant (or to recommend the appointment of a reporting accountant) satisfy themselves that members of other accountancy bodies maintain the requisite skill-set. Members of other accountancy bodies would seek and provide guidance from their own professional bodies as to their suitability to perform such engagements.