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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 extend my lease?

You can extend your lease as long as you have been a leaseholder for at least 2 years. As time passes, the time left on your lease diminishes. For new leases this isn’t a problem, but once the lease term falls below 80 years your property’s value can be seriously affected and it becomes more difficult to sell. It is worth thinking about extending your lease when you have between 100 and 90 years remaining on your lease.

To enquire about extending your lease, get in touch with us via your MyHARCA account or by emailing There are fees associated which include a valuation fee, and legal administrative fees. These will be broken down for you when you enquire.

My lease refers to ‘doubling ground rent’ – what does this mean?

If your lease includes a clause about doubling ground rent, don’t worry – Poplar HARCA will not be actioning this. The reason we haven’t amended your lease to reflect this is because there are legal costs in doing so, which leaseholders would need to cover. Read more here.

If you do want to have your lease varied, please contact Please note the legal fee for this is £600 +VAT and disbursements, and the instructions must be carried out by a Solicitor.

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. Please contact us to obtain a specification.

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 a resale management pack. The pack covers details of the annual ground rent and information about your service charge accounts including the last 3 years’ invoices. We also provide details of the cover under the building insurance policy and any planned major works on the property block 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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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 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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Requesting summary of service charge accounts

What information can I request?

There is certain information that leaseholders are legally entitled to, and Poplar HARCA must provide. Details of common requests are in the FAQs below, and more information is available here.

Can I request a summary of relevant costs?

Under Section 21 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985, you may request a summary of relevant costs. This must be in writing and can only be for the costs of the previous accounting years, or the costs of the last twelve months.

Poplar HARCA must reply to a s21 request within one month or 6 months of the end of the accounting period (whichever is later) and the summary must show how these costs have been or will be included in the service.

They must also show:

  • any bills that were paid by the landlord in the 12 month period but were incurred before the 12 month period.
  • any demands that have been received by the landlord in the 12 month period but not yet paid.
  • any demands that have been received and paid by the landlord in the 12 month period.
  • any costs related to works where the landlord has received an improvement grant.

Can I request to inspect supporting documents?

Under Section 22 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985, you may request to physically inspect accounts. This request can only be made after you have already made a request for a summary under s.21 (see FAQ above), and within six months of receiving that summary. This request must be made in writing.

Poplar HARCA must provide reasonable access within one month after receiving the request for leaseholders to inspect any accounts, receipts or other documents supporting the account summary, and make copies of these documents. These must remain accessible for two months.

What happens if there is a superior landlord?

If there is a superior landlord, some of the costs are incurred by them or on their behalf. Under Section 23 of the Landlord & Tenant Act 1985, if the landlord is not in possession of the relevant documents because they are held by the superior landlord, they must make a written request to the superior landlord for that information. The superior landlord must then respond within a reasonable time. The rule allows for a reasonable extension to the one month time limit in this situation.

How do I make a request, and how much does it cost?

To make a request, email

There is a £120 administration fee per request.


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