I am buying a flat and have been advised to check how much the service charge amounts to. Can you explain what a service charge is?
Your landlord, or the management company that runs the block of flats, will levy a service charge for maintenance. The seller will be able to let you know what they have paid in the last few years. It will often include the cost of buildings insurance for the flats, any structural repairs, such as those to the roof or external walls, redecorating and maintenance of communal areas, i.e. lifts, halls, staircases and shared car parks.
In well-managed flats, the annual service charge is often greater than the cost of the maintenance to build up a reserve or sinking fund to cover large or unexpected repairs. This also keeps the annual service charge at a consistent level.
Your solicitor will request copies of the service charge accounts for the last three years from the landlord or managing agents and will be able to advise you about the payments if the seller has not already done so. Your solicitor will also confirm what the service charge covers, whether it includes any additional maintenance, such as window cleaning and if there are likely to be any major repairs in the near future that may cause the service charge to be increased suddenly.
What is a mining search?
A mining search is submitted on any property situated in an area where coal mining takes place, or has done so in the past. Most solicitors have a Law Society directory that lists the areas in which a mining search must be carried out.
The search is submitted to the Coal Authority, costs £24 and will take a maximum of two weeks to be completed. It will reveal whether a property is in an area where mining has or is likely to take place and whether there are any underground workings that may cause subsidence problems. It will also identify if any compensation has been paid for subsidence and if there are any pending claims.
Subsidence is a danger in any area where mining has taken place. If the Coal Authority has already paid compensation, it is sometimes the case that no further claim can be made despite more subsidence damage to the property. Your solicitor will, therefore, consider it prudent to carry out a search on your behalf.