Help & Advice
This is designed to be a general reference area where you will be able to download information on Property Management and Property Maintenance related issues. This will become a Reference Library for all our customers to use; new material will be added regularly so you are advised to check here often in case we have added what you might be looking for.
Do please let us know if there are any topics you would like us to add and we will source and publish them.
Click on any of the links below to open a new window.
- Abandoned cars
- ARMA (The Association of Residential Managing Agents)
- Bins and waste collection
- Citizens Advice
- Companies House
- Controlling harmful weeds
- Disposal of bulky items
- Dog fouling
- Drains and Flooding
- Find out how tidy your area is
- Fire Safety
- Flat Living
- Fly-tipping – what you can do
- Getting graffiti removed
- Hiring a skip and using it safely
- Housing and local services
- Leasehold Advisory Service
- Noise nuisance and neighbour disputes
- Property Week
- Street cleaning
- Tenant organisations
Legal Terms Explained
What is a lease?
A lease is a legal agreement in which you pay money in order to use a building, piece of land or any other product for a period of time.
Typically there are two types of lease we use. The first is a lease between the freeholder (the lessor or ‘landlord’) and the owner/resident (the lessee or ‘tenant’). This is called a Two-Party lease.
The other type of lease involves three parties. You have the landlord and the tenant but you also have another company that is included called the ‘manager’ – That’s us!
What are covenants?
Covenants are the rules and regulations outlined within the lease for each of the interested parties named within the lease, there are covenants for both the landlord and the tenant.
What is a ‘demised’ area?
The demised area is a particular part of the development that belongs to a particular person/ company. The demised area for a tenant is usually anything within their property (e.g. the carpets or audio equipment). It is their sole responsibility to maintain these items or areas.
What are the ‘common’ parts or maintained areas?
The ‘common’ parts of the building are areas that anybody on the development can use (e.g. a communal lift or water feature). As more than one tenant has access to these facilities or areas, it is the responsibility of the landlord (or their appointed managing agent) to maintain and repair them.
What is a service charge?
Because you live in a managed development, a number of services are arranged centrally by the management company and the costs of these are shared by the owners in the form of a service charge. When you purchased your property, you entered into a lease or transfer deed which states the proportion of the various costs that you have to pay.
The lease or deed also states how service charge is to be paid, on what items Gem can spend the service charge and how the service charge is to be accounted for.
What is ground rent?
If you live in a leasehold property, you have purchased your home for the residue of the term of the lease – often 99, 125 or 999 years. Under the terms of your lease there is a ground rent payable to the owner of the land and the building, the freeholder. The amount of ground rent, how it is paid and when it will increase is stated in the lease and will not change if the owner of the freehold changes.
Gem often collect ground rent on behalf of the freeholder as a service to them but in some cases, the freeholder will collect this themselves.
How do I pay my Service charge or Ground rent?
Often your solicitor will have collected an amount of service charge on account when you purchased your home which is usually passed on to Gem.
However, thereafter Service Charge and ground rent can be paid by registering online or by a cheque made payable to ‘Gem Estate Management Ltd’ and posted to our Head Office. Please write your Account Number or full name and address on the back of the cheque or enclose the Remittance Advice off our invoice.
In addition, you can also pay the above by Standing Order. If you feel this method of payment would be more suitable please do not hesitate to contact us.
Why has the Service charge increased?
The service charge is an estimate of the actual costs of providing the various services arranged by Gem. The costs of these services can vary depending on contractors/suppliers charges, changes in the level or frequency of services required or maintenance requirements and, changes in legislation.
For example, utility suppliers for electricity or water may increase their prices on communal supplies, or usage might be higher than previously anticipated. The level of repairs needed might be higher than anticipated or it might be decided that services such as cleaning or gardening need to be carried out more frequently. Insurance costs may also change as a result of wider trends. Budgets /estimates will take into account long changes in costs.
Whatever the outcome, we use our expertise to keep costs as low as possible but consistent with providing the right level of service.
How do I know what my money is being spent on?
At the start of each financial year, a Service Charge Budget is prepared which is sent out to all owners and which sets out, line by line, how the service charge has been calculated, together with explanatory notes. The budget is an estimate of costs for the forthcoming year based on previous years expenditure for the development, current costs and planned and anticipated expenditure.
Following the end of the financial year, Service Charge Accounts, are prepared for each development, as in accordance with the lease or deed, and legislation. The service charge accounts detail the actual expenditure during the year and are certified by an independent Chartered Accountant as being accurate.
When the accounts are prepared we compare what the actual costs have been to what we have billed during the year, based upon the budget, to identify any surplus or deficit. If expenditure has been lower than anticipated then there will be a surplus that will be credited back to your account; if costs have been higher there will be a deficit, and an additional charge will be payable. Either way, you will only pay your proportion of the actual costs of providing the services.
Why do I have to pay Service charges if I own a freehold house?
Some developments of freehold houses have the benefits of shared facilities or areas which have to be managed, and the associated costs of this paid for by the house owners. There will generally be less maintenance required compared to a typical block of apartments, but maintenance costs might include electronic gates, shared grounds, areas of open space and private roads and drainage that are not adopted by the local authority or utility companies. Where there are shared areas Property Owners Liability (Public Liability) insurance will need to be arranged.
Where a development is mixed and comprises houses and apartments and in some cases commercial properties, the costs are apportioned fairly between the various elements and this is reflected in the service charge.
My property is empty, why do I still have to pay?
Under the terms of your lease or transfer, service charge is payable for the full duration of the ownership of your property irrespective of whether it is occupied or empty.
Each property owner contributes towards the costs of the services and these contributions add up to 100%. If we did not charge you whilst the property was empty, we wouldn’t recover 100% of the costs and there would be a shortfall which would have to fall unfairly upon the other owners.
Why is my service charge higher than my neighbours?
No two buildings are the same and although a block may look to be similar, there will be many differences that may affect the amount of service charge.
The number of apartments in a building can have an effect with regard to economies of scale – larger buildings can often be run more cost effectively than one with just a few apartments to share the fixed costs such as lift maintenance.
Different buildings have different equipment to maintain – looking after fire alarms, electronic gates and lifts for example are a significant costs that may not apply to some buildings. Not all buildings will have a provision in the service charge for building up reserve funds to pay for redecorations and major repairs. If these items aren’t reflected in the service charge, then they are effectively a hidden cost for the future.
The service charge for individual properties can be calculated in a number of ways to reflect the services that they individually benefit from or, in some cases to reflect the size of the apartment.
What repairs are Gem responsible for?
The respective responsibilities of Gem and you are set down in your lease or transfer which you must refer, to understand the detailed obligations.
In the case of leasehold apartments, broadly speaking, Gem is responsible for the maintenance and repair of the common parts, the building structure and exterior, any shared services or equipment and any external grounds. You are responsible for all repairs and maintenance within your apartment.
If you own a freehold house, you are likely to be fully responsible for all matters relating to your individual property and Gem will only have specific responsibilities in relation to any shared private roads, gates or drainage.
How can I report a repair?
You can report a repair to Gem by logging in to the My Accounts area and selecting Maintenance request or by selecting one of the various ‘contact us’ options.
How do I obtain a new key or fob?
If you need a replacement or additional key for a shared entrance door or gates, Gem can normally supply these for a charge. Please contact us to place your order or, do so via the My Accounts login section of our website.
You should be aware that keys and fobs often have to be ordered specially from the suppliers and so may take several weeks to arrive. In some cases, the charge from the supplier for an electric fob can be significant and we have to pass this cost onto the purchaser.
We do not have access to keys for your individual front door and we reserve the right to place a limit on the number of duplicates supplied.
Do I need to obtain consent to keep a pet?
Most flat leases require the consent of the Landlord for the keeping of a pet in an apartment. This is for the protection of your neighbours and the building as some pets can cause a nuisance or damage to the common parts.
For more information contact us.
Do I need permission to install a satellite dish?
Most flat leases require the consent of the Landlord. In some building a communal dish may already be installed.
To find out please contact us.
How often will the outside of the building be decorated?
In most cases, the frequency of redecoration will be laid down in the lease – often not more than every four or five years. In some cases, the lease will require the redecoration to be carried out ‘as and when required’ in which case we will identify when this is necessary from our programme of inspections.
We will advise you when redecorations are to be carried out, and in many cases the level of expenditure will require us to formally consult with you prior to committing to the work.
Who checks that the contractors are doing a good job?
Your building is allocated to a locally based Property Manager who visits the development on a regular cycle. It is their job to carry out a full inspection to check that services such as cleaning and landscape maintenance are being carried out according to the specification and to a high standard. They will also identify any repairs needed and will check on any repairs recently carried out.
If you have any concerns about the services being provided please contact us so that we can address these.
How can I report noisy neighbours?
If there are neighbours causing a nuisance, the first thing that you should do is have a friendly chat with them – many people aren’t used to living in flats and don’t realise the problems that they are causing.
If the situation does not improve, you will need to determine their address together with dates, times and details of occurrences. The lease contains covenants in relation to not causing a nuisance and so if you are suffering from a repeated problem, Gem can take steps to enforce the lease. In the first instance, we will write to the offending owner.
It is also worth remembering that local authorities have wide ranging powers in relation to noise nuisance and you should also seek their advice via https://www.gov.uk/how-to-resolve-neighbour-disputes/complain-about-noise-to-the-council
Someone has abandoned a car on the estate, what can I do?
You should report this to the local authority via https://www.gov.uk/report-abandoned-vehicle
What should I do if I’m not happy with the state of maintenance or repairs?
Gem aims to provide an efficient and effective management service. Our aim is to deliver a service which exceeds your expectations. We recognise however that sometimes things may go wrong and we would like the opportunity to improve the service we provide by thoroughly investigating and correcting any mistakes.
In the first instance please contact a member of our staff to explain your complaint as we expect that through good communication we can resolve any issue.
If you are unhappy with the service you have received and wish to make a formal complaint then please provide us with as much detail as possible, in writing by letter to Customer Services, Gem Estate Management, Gem House, 1 Dunhams Lane, Letchworth, Hertfordshire, SG6 1GL.
What should I expect?
- An independent senior member of staff will ACKNOWLEDGE your complaint within 7 days. At this stage we will give you our understanding of your case and invite you to make any further comments or ask you for clarification in respect of any matter.
- The independent senior member of staff will then INVESTIGATE your complaint fully by reviewing the documentation and speaking to any personnel involved.
- You will receive our WRITTEN RESPONSE within 21 days from the receipt of your formal complaint. We will detail our findings, whether or not your complaint has been upheld and what action we propose to take as a result of your complaint. If we are unable to provide a full response within 21 days then we will instead write to you to advise the reasons why we are unable to respond and provide a new date by which you will receive a written response.
If you are dissatisfied with any aspect of the handling of your formal complaint, or dispute the findings of the investigation then you can request a REVIEW of your complaint by writing to the Directors of Gem Estate Management Ltd. Please send your complaint review request to The Managing Director, Gem Estate Management Ltd, Thamesbourne Lodge, Station Road, Bourne End, Buckinghamshire SL8 5QH.
The Directors will acknowledge receipt of your Complaint Review within 7 days, carry out a thorough review and provide a FULL AND FINAL RESPONSE on behalf of Gem Estate Management Ltd within 21 days of receipt of your review request.
If you are still dissatisfied with any aspect of the handling of your complaint or dispute the findings of the complaint review then you are entitled to contact The Property Ombudsman. Details of The Property Ombudsman can be found on their web site www.tpos.co.uk or by calling them on (01722) 333 306 or by writing to them at The Property Ombudsman, Milford House, 43-55 Milford Street, Salisbury, Wiltshire SP1 2BP.