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Ground Rent and Service Charges Explained

At first glance, ground rent and service charges can be intimidating and confusing to try to navigate. But we’re here to share a little expertise to help you better understand what these are, how they work, and how to use them for your benefit.

By the end of this handy guide, you’ll have the knowledge and confidence you need to take control of your ground rent and service charges. Let’s get started!

Ground Rent Explained

What is ground rent?

Ground rent is a fee that a tenant (or leaseholder) pays to the owner of the land (or building) on which their property is built, as an agreement to use the land.

It is different from other types of rents in that it doesn’t pay for any services, such as maintenance or repairs. Instead, the money from ground rent goes directly to the owner of the freehold. It is solely a source of income for them, and they don’t need to do anything except request it.

Ground rent is a legal requirement in line with most lease agreements, and it is typically paid on a monthly or yearly basis. While there are some situations in which ground rent may be waived or cancelled, it is usually an important part of your contract as a leaseholder.

How do ground rent payments work?

Ground rent payments are as demanded in the lease, no matter what else you hear. Sometimes they increase, either doubling or increasing in line with RPI, but you will always have to pay the ground rent as outlined in your lease.

There are a few things that you should keep in mind when making ground rent payments. First, make sure that you always pay on time and in full, even if you’re in dispute with the freeholder, as any late or incomplete payment could result in additional fees or penalties as outlined below.

You should also be aware of any other obligations or restrictions around your ground rent payments. Some properties may limit you to a certain bank or payment method, or may have specific rules about payments on public holidays. It is important to review your contract carefully and ask your solicitor if you are unsure.

Overall, ground rent is generally an inconvenient but necessary part of owning a leasehold property. If you are currently looking for a leasehold property, be sure to carefully review the ground rent requirements before signing any contracts. If you want to remove your ground rent, you will need to consider buying your freehold.

What happens with unpaid ground rent?

If ground rent is not paid, the freeholder will often send reminders or demands for payment in accordance with the terms of your lease agreement. However, if you continue to miss payments or fall behind on your obligations, you may have to pay administration charges, or the freeholder may even take legal action to recover their money.

This can include issuing a court summons and taking steps to repossess or sell the property, which could result in additional costs equal to far more than your initial ground rent payment.

Service Charges Explained

What are service charges?

Service charges are a key component of leasing a property, and they help to cover the costs associated with maintaining and running the building and communal spaces. This can include things like utilities, repairs or cleaning, depending on the services provided by your leaseholder or landlord.

The exact amount of service charges will vary depending on the type of property you are renting as well as any specific services outlined in your lease. Instead of a figure being provided, you will typically receive a list of services and the associated costs with each.

Overall, service charges are an important part of owning a leasehold property and should be considered carefully as you evaluate your housing options. Whether you are looking for a new apartment or considering purchasing a leasehold property, it is important to understand the associated costs and obligations before making any decisions.​

What do leasehold service charges cover?

A service charge payment will most often cover key tasks such as: 

  • Upkeep of the building
  • Paying the managing agent
  • Professional fees
  • Reserve fund
  • Water and sewer costs
  • Building insurance
  • Staffing costs
  • Maintaining communal areas and other on-site amenities.

Some buildings may include additional services such as 24/7 security, maintenance of shared gardens or facilities, and more.

An exact list of what a service charge covers – and how much your service charge costs – will depend on the specific property you are renting or leasing, and will be included in your lease, so be sure to carefully review this document before signing any contracts.

If you have questions or concerns about your service charges, it is important to communicate with your landlord or freeholder as soon as possible. This will help ensure that you only pay for the services that you actually receive, and can also help protect against unexpected fees or penalties down the road.

How are service charges paid?

Service charge payments are usually made by demands sent by a managing agent, again demanded as the lease requests (often quarterly).

In some cases, these demands will include a summary of costs or receipts for any work that has been completed. If not, you may have to ask for copies of these from the managing agent to verify whether everything is above board and your payments are going where they should be.

If your service charges feel excessive (or in some other way unfair), it is important to speak with your landlord or freeholder as soon as possible. This can help you understand the reasoning behind any increases, and may also allow you to negotiate a reduction in costs or payment plan that works better for your budget.

When it comes to ground rents and service charges, you can save money by purchasing your freehold. If you are a leaseholder, dealing with ground rents and service charges can be complicated, you will typically need to adhere to the terms of your lease in order to avoid additional fees or penalties, and the payments can be confusing and unexpected.

Service Charges and Ground Rent With Freehold Purchase

If you want more direct control over the service charges you pay, it could be worth buying your freehold

Freeholders have more rights and options when it comes to addressing issues or disputes, and can generally negotiate their own terms for service charges. If you and the rest of your building come together to buy your freehold via collective enfranchisement, you can avoid many of these issues altogether and maintain more control over the service charges you pay.

Additionally, once you’ve bought your freehold, you won’t pay any ground rent, so there is no additional expense or obligation beyond your service charges. Overall, purchasing and maintaining your freehold is a great way to save money, simplify your finances, and take control of your property ownership.​

Final Thoughts

If you’re looking for support to buy your freehold, remove your ground rent and take back control of your building, we’re the team to help. Our freehold purchase experts are dedicated to helping you navigate the process and ensure that everything goes as smoothly as possible. Don’t hesitate to enquire now with any questions or concerns, we’re always happy to help!​

Alternatively, check out our Freehold Purchase Calculator today for an instant value estimation.

Quick FAQs

What is ground rent and service charge?

Ground rents are payments made to the freeholder or landlord for the use of their land, whereas service charges are paid to the building owners for costs associated with maintaining the property. Both of these fees can vary depending on the specific property and lease agreement, so it is important to carefully review all documents before making any commitments.​

How can I reduce my service charges?

There are several steps you can take to try and reduce your service charges, including attempting to negotiate with your landlord or freeholder and try to negotiate lower costs for specific services or projects, but ultimately they can say no, and the only way you can properly take control is by purchasing your freehold.​

How can I reduce my ground rent?

As ground rent legally has to be paid as per your lease, the best way you can reduce your ground rent is to buy your freehold. This will give you full ownership of the land, and allow you to cancel your lease or renegotiate the terms with your landlord.