Leaseholders

The icons below feature our frequently asked questions for leaseholders.

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Leaseholders

What does my service charge pay for?

Your service charge includes your share of costs for services provided to your building and estate. This could include:

  • repairs, caretaking, horticulture and estate lighting
  • communal heating, lifts, door entry systems and TV aerials
  • management and administration charge for staff and offices costs
  • ground rent and buildings insurance

These costs are divided between the number of properties in the building or estate, taking into account the size of each property.

You can find a full explanation of service charges here.

How do I pay my service charge?

You can pay your service charge estimate in one lump sum, or you can set up a direct debit to pay by 10 monthly instalments. If you pay in full within 28 days, we’ll credit your account with £30.

If there is an extra amount to pay when you receive your service charge actual, you must pay this within 28 days.

Call us to make a payment or set up a direct debit.

What are my responsibilities as a leaseholder?

As a leaseholder or shared owner, you have legal fire safety responsibilities. These are detailed on the Government’s website.

We carry out inspections to make sure that:

  • boiler and gas appliances are regularly serviced
  • communal areas are clear
  • electrical wiring meets current regulations
  • fire protection between properties and between rooms has not been compromised
  • flammable materials are not being stored
  • front door and kitchen door are ‘self-closing’ fire doors
  • replacement windows are made of a fire-resisting material and properly installed
  • security gates or grilles do not impede exit or access in an emergency

Can I make alterations to my property?

Yes, but you need our consent to carry out work to the structure of the building e.g. windows, internal walls or changing the layout.

If you carry out work without our approval you will be in breach of your lease. There may be other consents needed too, such as planning and building control.

To extend your flat, for example into a loft space, you will need to buy the area you want to extend into and add it to your lease.

If you change your front entrance door it must comply with fire safety regulations and be fire resistant for a minimum of 30 minutes.

Where can I get independent advice?

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Letting your home

What are my responsibilities when I sublet?

If you sublet your property, you continue to be responsible for:

  • paying service charges and ground rent
  • the terms of your lease

As a landlord, you will also be responsible for:

  • ensuring your tenant does not cause any problems, including antisocial behaviour
  • arranging an annual gas safety service by a registered engineer
  • providing at least one smoke alarm on every storey of the property used as living accommodation
  • ensuring that the front door and kitchen door are ‘self-closing’ fire doors

The London Fire Brigade‘s website provides detailed advice on fire safety responsibilities of landlords.

Who do I need to inform?

If you plan to sublet your property you must inform:

  • Poplar HARCA’s Home Ownership team
  • Your bank or building society, if you have a mortgage
  • Your home contents insurance provider

You must also inform us if your property is going to be left empty for any length of time, as this could affect any insurance claims.

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Selling your home

If I want to sell my home, what information do I need to provide?

If you want to sell your home, you must give us details of the solicitor who is acting on your behalf to sell the property. Please ensure that a letter of authority signed by all leaseholders is provided with their request, stating that they are your legal representative.

The solicitor will ask us for information about your service charge accounts. They may ask if we are planning any major works and other lease related information. There is a charge for providing this information to your solicitor.

Who is responsible for paying outstanding bills?

We expect you to pay any bills for service charges, building insurance, ground rent and major works on your account in full up until the end of the financial year. You will need to do this on or before the date you complete the sale.

Your solicitors will be responsible for claiming from the purchaser’s solicitor any money due from the date of completion until the end of the financial year on the 31st of March.

What happens when the sale is complete?

The purchaser’s solicitor must send us a notice of transfer/assignment within four weeks before we are able to update our records with the new owner’s details. If the purchaser’s solicitor does not do this, we will continue to charge you for services and you will be responsible for any problems that may arise.

What if I am selling my home after purchasing through Right to Buy/Right to Acquire?

If you sell your home within five years of buying it through Right to Buy/Right to Acquire, you will have to pay back some or all of the discount you received. The amount of discount you have to pay back will be a percentage of your home’s market value when you sell it.

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Staircasing

What is staircasing?

When you buy extra shares in your shared ownership property, this is called staircasing.

What is the process?

You need to put your interest in writing by emailing info@poplarharca.co.uk with your full name and address. A Notice of Intention to Staircase form will then be sent out to you; please fill out and return the completed form, outlining the share you wish to purchase.

A valuation of your home will need to be carried out, as instructed by Poplar HARCA. The basis of the valuation is set out in your lease. You can instruct a valuer of your choice but they must be a member of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors. The cost of the valuation will be payable by you and is non-refundable. The valuation is normally valid for 3 months; if you do not complete the transaction in this time the property will have to be re-valued, and any additional costs will be payable by you.

If you are in arrears with your shared ownership rent or service charges, you will not be eligible to staircase until you have a clear account balance.

What are the benefits?

When you buy more shares in your home, your shared ownership rent decreases. You will continue to pay shared ownership rent based on the share that Poplar HARCA still owns, along with full service charges.

Are there any fees?

When purchasing a further share in your property, there will be legal fees, mortgage arrangement fees, stamp duty (if applicable), and other associated costs. There may also be further costs charged by your mortgage lender. Your solicitor will advise you on these costs and be able to give you an itemised breakdown.

Do I need to consult a solicitor?

An increase in the share of your property will involve changes to your existing lease. This means you will need to instruct a solicitor to act for you. Ideally they should be experienced in dealing with shared ownership transactions.

What if I am increasing my mortgage or taking out a new loan to staircase?

Increasing your mortgage to staircase is known as a Further Advance. Taking out a new loan with a new lender is known as a Re-Mortgage. If you are considering either of these options, contact an independent Financial Adviser to check whether you will be able to afford the additional share you wish to purchase. You will also need to contact your lender directly to organise the additional amount.

What happens when I staircase to 100%?

Once you’ve reached 100% you will no longer pay shared ownership rent. You will instead pay ground rent and full service charges.

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