CASE STUDY

New service charge

A landlord’s consultation with tenants about the introduction of an enhanced housing management service charge was reasonable as they were consulted in accordance with their tenancy agreements

Ms C complained about the reasonableness and legality of a new service charge introduced by the landlord for an enhanced service at her sheltered housing scheme intended to support tenants to live independently. She also complained about the consultation carried out before the introduction of the charge. She said that the consultation had been biased, not all of the tenants who were charged could benefit from the service, and she wanted to be able to opt out of the charge.

Paragraph 23(i) of the Housing Ombudsman Scheme states that we will not consider complaints which, in our opinion, concern matters where it could be quicker, fairer, more reasonable or more effective to seek a remedy through the courts, other tribunal or procedure.

We considered that Ms C’s complaints about the reasonableness and legality of the charges would most effectively be decided upon by the First-tier Tribunal (Property Chamber), which could potentially make a legally binding decision about the service charge liability, level and legality. We did, however, formally investigate Ms C’s complaint about how the landlord had consulted prior to the introduction of the charge.

Outcome:

We determined that there had been no maladministration as the landlord had acted in line with the obligation in the residents’ tenancy agreements. This was to inform and consult with tenants before making such changes, and to provide them with the opportunity to tell it what they thought before making a decision on whether to go ahead. The landlord had provided tenants with detailed information on the proposed charge, had arranged events to take questions about the implementation of the charge and had consulted with tenants individually. It also provided evidence that it had considered and responded to all tenant views, and had reviewed the charge again at board level before its introduction.