SHAC receives frequent and sometimes shocking reports about problems with service charges.
Some landlords are clearly worse than others. However, across the sector it is evident that tenants and residents are getting a raw deal, and the ability of housing associations to manage this aspect of their business responsibly is questionable. Far more needs to be done to improve transparency and fairness, redressing the balance in favour of tenants and residents rights. Measures could include for example:
- Mandatory itemised billing with supplier receipts
- Set timescales for refunds
- Mandatory reporting through regulatory returns on overcharging and undercharging errors
- Automatic reporting to a regulatory body when overcharging exceeds a certain level;
- Automatic compensation to tenants and residents (beyond like-for-like refunds) when overcharging occurs
- Automatic compensation to tenants and residents when landlords are slow to reimburse tenants after overcharging
- A mandatory requirement to pass on efficiency savings to tenants and residents when supplier costs reduce
It is only through such measures that the system of service charging can be made transparent, and tenants and residents can be sufficiently empowered to address errors.