There has been a lot of bad press in the past about service charges relating to new build homes. But what exactly are service charges – and why do homeowners need to pay them? Richard Daver, MD of Rendall & Rittner answers Homefocus's questions on service charges…
What are service charges?
Service charges are designed to cover the running and upkeep of a development, maintenance of facilities, cleaning and utilities for communal spaces, concierge, security, repairs, out-of-hours support, buildings insurance, and so on. Rendall & Rittner has bulk procurement initiatives that help achieve value for money and keep service charges down. Each property is assigned a dedicated Property Manager, who attends client and resident meetings, and inspects the property on a regular basis. Rendall & Rittner’s service charge estimates are prepared in draft by the designated property manager and reviewed by members of the senior management team to ensure that they are fair across the board.
How much do they cost?
Service charges can differ depending on the development reflecting the facilities and services provided which can vary significantly. Importance is therefore placed on value for money on an individual development basis rather than comparing one to another. The Rendall & Rittner online portal is a single place where clients and lessees can access all of the information about a development within a dedicated website. Used in tandem with a property management system, this gives bespoke reporting of a leaseholder’s service charge account where they can make payments online.
What you get for the money?
New build developments often include on-site facilities that are maintained and run under the service charge. Frequently found are leisure facilities, business suites, private cinemas and residents’ lounges, all calling for a professional and well-trained team to run them to best effect.
Providing high levels of customer service is an important and tangible way of showing value within the service charge, Rendall & Rittner places a strong emphasis on the personal touch. The on-site team might include a concierge, night security, maintenance and cleaning personnel. Any service charge will cover the costs of staffing this team, ensure they are trained to offer the highest standards of service, and deal with any issues quickly and effectively. An out-of-hours emergency support service is also essential and Rendall & Rittner uses one operated by a third-party supplier.
Rendall & Rittner is developing ways to add further value as part of the service charge through innovative partnerships with other premium service providers. For example, at Abell and Cleland and Merchant Square, they partnered with the neighbouring Hilton Hotels and at 190 Strand, with The Waldorf, to provide services to residents including room service, private dining, food & beverages for meetings and hotel discounts. The Rendall & Rittner Residents’ Club is now available at all London developments managed by Rendall & Rittner, offering deals on travel, gyms and restaurants, as well as exclusive events such as West End theatre evenings.
The company’s online portal (other than for a small number of bespoke buildings), access to its Residents Club and the out-of-hours emergency facility are all included as part of Rendall and Rittner’s management fee.
As a company Rendall & Rittner manages over 70,000 residential properties in the UK including many of London’s most high-profile developments and mixed-use schemes. They are independent from any property management conglomerate so are able to offer services free from corporate pressure to cross-sell other services such as insurance, maintenance contracts or staffing procured through subsidiary companies. It is always going to be difficult to please everyone when it comes to service charges, but Rendall & Rittner believes by being as open and transparent as possible they are moving in the right direction.
For more information on service charges, see rendallandrittner.co.uk