In 2015, I did actually withhold the £10 weekly surcharge they initially imposed to cover their deficit.
This was the £10 they imposed to cover a deficit in the service charge account for my block, which they said was due to them not setting a service charge for the previous 18 months.
I told them that I would happily pay the new service charge minus this surcharge until the dispute was settled. The new service charges plus the £10 deficit charge would have meant paying an extra £25 a week.
I did get someone from their rents team calling me, on a couple of occasions, to discuss ‘my arrears.’ But I corrected him by saying that I was paying my rent and service charges but not the £10 weekly surcharge which they had imposed, in order to cover a deficit of their own making.
It went that way until the First Tier Tribunal hearing when a figure was negotiated.
The ‘bundle’ relating to when I took them to the First Tier Tribunal was entitled: ‘The Matter of the landlord and tenant act 1985 Section 20C and Section 27A (1).’ This was on the front page of the bundle, above the list of copies of letters relating to the actual service charges. This was then followed by copies of invoices and breakdowns from contractors relating to the disputed service charge period.
In effect I said that it was not my intention to avoid paying for services that I had already received. I had also disputed some of the things that they had included in previous service charge breakdowns such as ‘Water Supply’ and ‘Gas’ (all paid through utilities providers) and periods when no communal cleaning had been provided.
However my main objection was paying such high amount due to their own failure – not to set a service charge. I believe that this could also be backed up by their ‘creative’ accounting methods.
By this time the weekly £10 surcharge had run up to over a £1,000 by then and I agreed to pay £500, as a gesture of goodwill! That’s how it was settled. By challenging them, they had to provide all details of service charges for the period. I also had to provide copies of all my relevant correspondence to them.
At the time, as a gesture of ‘good will’ a compromise was agreed were I would pay half of the surcharge, which had built up to over £ 1,000. As a condition in the agreement – which I had to sign on a document they hastily drew up on the day – it was stressed that this agreement was with myself only and not the other tenants in my block,. But they were also affected. However some months later everyone in the block was sent a letter giving them the same refund.
A legal precedent had been made, which meant they had to apply this to everyone else affected.
A Genesis tenant