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We believe you should enjoy your home, safe in the knowledge the money you spend on property maintenance and upkeep is being well spent. So here’s a handy guide to weighing up your fees. Service charges and management fees fund the costs of maintaining the development in good order and to a standard you expect.
Here are the answers to common questions you may have on your service charge:
What is the service charge?
Your service charge is the money you pay towards the day-to-day running costs of your development. Every resident pays a service charge and the money is used to cover items such as buildings insurance, maintenance, repairs, gardening and communal facilities.
The service charge also covers the costs of any onsite staff, where applicable. In independent retirement living developments this would normally be your Development Manager.
When is the service charge paid?
This depends on your Deed of Conditions. You may be required to pay your service charge once a year, twice a year (usually every six months) or occasionally in monthly instalments. If you aren’t sure when you should pay your service charge then:
If you live in an independent retirement living development please get in touch with your Development Manager for details
If you live or own a property in a general residential development, please get in touch with our Customer Services team in Glasgow.
What is the service charge based on?
The Service charge is based on an estimate or budget we prepare each year of all the running costs relating to the communal areas of your development. These could include a number of elements. Some of the most common are:
- Landscape maintenance – such as cutting the grass, maintaining communal gardens, watering and sweeping
- Lighting, heating and cleaning of communal internal areas
- Window cleaning – specific to each development, but would include all external windows as well as internal windows in communal areas
- Lift maintenance and fire equipment maintenance
- Other electrical and mechanical equipment maintenance – specific to each development, but this could include items such as water pumps, electrically powered entry or security gates, communal heating boilers etc
- General repairs and residential property maintenance
- Salaries of any onsite staff that are employed specifically to work for the development, where applicable.
- Buildings insurance – in the case of apartments, full buildings insurance is required under the terms of the Deeds of Conditions to cover the risks relevant to the development. Standard insurance risks might include fire, explosion, lightning, aircraft, terrorism, storm or flood, sprinkler leakage, subsidence or landside
- Bank Charges and Audit fees.
How do you work out the annual service charge?
For newly built developments, the service charge is based on estimated costs. We make every attempt to make sure the budget is accurate and as close as possible to actual costs.
For established residential buildings, developments and estates, we use the previous year’s costs to prepare the estimate for the coming year.
We have no control over charges such as VAT, so we can only anticipate what this is likely to be. For utility costs such as electricity, we use our national buying power to negotiate competitive rates that are significantly lower than normal domestic tariffs. Our aim is to ensure all utility charges remain as low as possible.
When is the service charge worked out?
We prepare a budget based on the estimated service charges for the next financial year a few months before it starts.
If you live in an independent retirement living development you will be invited to a budget meeting held by the Area Manager, where they will consult with you before the budget is finalised.
What is the difference between a budget and accounts?
We prepare a budget based on the estimated service charges for the next financial year (which is set by the Deeds of Conditions and prescribes what period service charges must be accounted for). We do this a few months before it starts - you will typically receive the finished budget about a month before the financial year begins. (If you live in an independent retirement living development you will be invited to a budget meeting, held by the Area Manager, where they will consult with you before the budget is finalised).
For newly built developments, the service charge is based on estimated costs. We make every attempt to make sure the budget is accurate and as close as possible to actual costs. For established developments, we use the previous year’s costs to prepare the estimate for the coming year.
For retirement developments, following the end of the development's financial year the annual accounts are prepared and then audited by an independent accountant. Within the accounts that we send you will be a full summary of service charge expenditure for the financial year broken down by categories of expenditure. We highlight where residential property management expenditure hasn’t been in line with our estimate, giving an explanation for any significant differences.
A summary is sent to every owner. (If you live in an independent retirement living development you will be invited to a residents’ meeting held by the Area Manager where you can ask any questions. We keep a record of all invoices and you can ask to see this information at any time.)
There is often an adjustment to the service charge after the year-end as it is unlikely that our estimate will equal the amount expended during the year. This adjustment can be a credit (if we over estimate) or a debit (if we under estimate). If we under estimate; an invoice will be sent to you for the balance due. If we over estimate, the adjustment is credited to your account and will reduce future invoices.
For residents in general residential developments we send your estimated service charges for the next financial year, as prepared by the Area Manager. They will be happy to answer any questions on the budget they have set for the year. Please get in touch with your Development Manager, where applicable, or our Customer Services team.
Can I obtain help with paying the service charge?
If you’re having problems paying your account, please call us. We may be able to help. Your mortgage company might be able to help too, they may add the money you owe us to your mortgage.
As well as talking to us, you can also seek free, independent help and advice from the following organisations:
Phone: Freephone 0808 808 4000
Phone: 0808 800 9060
Step Change Debt Charity
Phone: Freephone 0800 138 1111
Civil Legal Advice
Phone: 0345 345 4 345
How do you let me know how my service charge has been spent?
Following the end of the development's financial year, the annual accounts are prepared and, if agreed by owners, are then audited by an independent firm of accountants. A summary is sent to every owner and the accounts will be fully explained.
There is often an adjustment to the Service charge after the year-end as it is unlikely that our estimate will equal the amount expended during the year.
This adjustment can be a credit if we over estimate or a debit if we under estimate. If we under estimate; an invoice will be sent to you for the balance due. If we over estimate, the adjustment are credited to your account and can reduce future invoices.
If you live in an independent retirement living development you will be invited to a residents’ meeting held by the Area Manager where you can ask any questions. We keep a record of all invoices and you can ask to see this information at any time.
For residents in general residential developments the Area Manager will provide a summary of service charge expenditure for the financial year broken down by categories of expenditure.
What are Reserves/Contingency Funds?
We all think it’s generally a good idea to keep savings for unexpected expenditure and the proverbial 'rainy day'. That’s why we believe it’s sensible for a development to have its own 'Reserve/Contingency Fund'.
The Reserve/Contingency Funds are collected to help contribute towards the cost of non-annual expenditure like major repairs, external and internal decorations. We set out in the annual budget how much is being collected in that year, and the money accumulates over time. The annual accounts contain a statement of the overall amount for your development.
The money is held in the same way as other service charge funds in a trust account with any interest being for the benefit of the reserve fund. The money can only be spent on your development.
Where do you keep the money I pay you?
The service charge and reserve/contingency money you pay FirstPort is held in a bank account under statutory trust at National Westminster Bank plc in your development’s name. (Please note: We have transferred our development bank accounts, sometimes also referred to as “client bank account” from Royal Bank of Scotland (RBS) to Barclays: please view our Client Banking page for more details.
Funds in your development bank account are safe, completely independent and can only be used for the purposes of your specific development.
All our bank accounts are protected by the UK regulator, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).
What does my management fee pay for? How is the management fee calculated?
This management fee that you pay to FirstPort Property Services Scotland covers the costs of a wide range of activities that we carry out to manage your development efficiently. In most circumstances it is calculated as a set fee and paid on a per property basis.
The management fee will likely include (this is not an exhaustive list):
Health & Safety
- Oversight of the risk assessment process and management of remedial actions
- Site inspections and development visits by your Area Manager
- Arranging residential property maintenance and repair work (including tenders) to be carried out.
- Area Manager support and all onsite staff training and welfare, where applicable.
- Company operating costs including staff travel, staff visits to developments and support centre overheads.
- Production and distribution of printed helpful information for customers.
- Your Property Online (YPO) development specific information service.
- Annual budget review meetings with customers, where applicable.
- Preparation and issue of annual service charge budget.
- Administration of direct debit, debit/credit card (subject to transaction fee), bank transfer and cheque payments.
- Well-managed contingency fund.
We’re pretty flexible and want to make it easy for you to pay in the way that suits you.
How to make a payment
If you’d like to pay your Service charge online, by debit card or credit card you’ll first need to register to use
, our secure online portal. We accept most debit and credit cards. You will then be able to pay via the portal and receive an instant confirmation of receipt.
How to make telephone payments by debit or credit card
If your Deed of Conditions allow and you’d like to set up a direct debit arrangement, just call us on Tel: 0333 321 4077 (9am-5pm only)
How to make a bank transfer to the development account
Please call the number below to find out how to pay by bank transfer direct into the bank account for the development.
Tel: 0333 321 4077
How to make direct debit arrangements
If your Deed of Conditions allow, you may be able to spread your costs by paying by direct debit. If you’d like to set up a direct debit arrangement, just call the Credit Control team on 0333 321 4077.
How to make cheque payments
Please make cheques payable to FirstPort Property Services Scotland Limited and send to: FirstPort, P.O. Box 9012, New Milton, Hampshire, BH25 9FB
What happens regarding late payments?
It is important that you pay your account on time. Late payments have a huge impact on levels of service and residential property maintenance we can provide and ultimately affects your development and your neighbours. If you’re having problems paying your account, contact us. We will be able to help.
We also provide more information and details of organisations that can help you if you have problem paying your service charge.
Our policy on late payment is:
A first reminder will be sent to you in writing 15 days after the invoice date. If we haven't received payment, a second reminder letter will be sent 14 days after the first reminder. Finally, a third reminder will be sent 7 days after the second reminder. This is a Court Warning letter. A late payment fee will be charged to cover our administration costs. Interest may also be charged to your account.
The cost of utilities for the communal areas of your development is covered within the yearly service charge. We have a dedicated procurement team who work hard to obtain competitive prices and negotiate cost savings for insurance cover, utility providers and maintenance contracts through our bulk purchasing power.
Your building developer arranges for the services to be connected to the building. You are responsible for paying the electricity bill for your own property. When you buy your home, you will need to ask the electricity company to connect the supply once the purchase is completed.
Some developments and building may have a communal fresh water pump or even a pump station.
If you have a pump station at your property, the likelihood is that the development is not connected directly to the main sewer system. Therefore, the waste from the property flows to a storage chamber fitted with submersible pumps which discharges automatically to the main sewer system. When liquid waste enters the Local or Water Authority sewer systems, it may typically pass through many more pumping stations handling progressively bigger flows before reaching the treatment works.
The fact that your development has its own private pumping station, should not be viewed as an unusual situation, perhaps just something which you've not known about or had any responsibility for in the past. Sewage pump systems are designed to handle foul water, natural human waste and biodegradable products.
Other household waste and non-biodegradable products should never be disposed of through the drainage system regardless of whether your property has its own pump system or not. If you would like any help or advice on living with a pump station please get in touch with your Customer Services team.
A telephone point is usually provided in each property. You will normally apply for you own connection when you move in.
- Each flat has a socket connected to a communal aerial to connect a television.
- You will need to have your own TV licence.
- A licence concession may apply, depending on your age and circumstances.