Estate service costs
As well as your rent, you may also pay for a service charge to cover the costs of providing other services on your estate. These charges could be used to cover expenses such as communal electricity or grounds maintenance.
When you begin renting your home with us, we will explain the service charges that are due for the property. We review the service charges on all of our estates annually and you will receive notification of any changes.
What are service charges?
If you live in a Westward home and receive a service to any part of your building or communal grounds, for example block cleaning or communal grounds maintenance, you will need to pay your share of the costs through a ‘service charge’, which is typically a weekly or monthly charge.
Your lease or tenancy agreement will set out your service charge obligations - what you must pay for and whether the service charges are fixed or variable.
Service charge estimate - July 2023
We know that service charges can be a source of stress and worry. As your landlord, we want to be clear and open about why your service charge may increase and to show you what we’re doing to try to prevent large increases in the future.
What you see on your service charge statement, listed alphabetically below, is a calculation of what we expect to spend over the next financial year (1 April 2023 to March 2024). After the financial year is over, your actual statement will be published on our website (June 2023), showing what we spent for the year. This will highlight whether we’ve come in under or over budget and whether your service charge account is in surplus or deficit.
The cost of many estate services increased in 2022-23 due to the cost-of-living crisis, and we are aware that some services are expected to increase again in 2023-24. We've explained the reasons for the most common price increases (listed below).
You may have some, or all, of the below services on your service charge estimate.
In April 2022 we signed new contracts for our landlord electricity supplies for a six-month period, at the best deal available to us at the time. Our contracts were renewed in October 2022, for a further six months, which unfortunately coincided with an unprecedented second increase to energy prices in a single 12 month period. The budgets we set for communal/landlord energy were accurate at the time of budget setting, back in April 2022, however multiple estates came in overbudget due to this second price increase.
We signed new 12 month communal/landlord energy contracts in April 2023 and the budgets we’ve set for 2023-24 are based on your actual communal usage during 2022/23. This means that, if your communal energy usage remains the same as 2022-23, we expect to come in on budget. Please note that, if communal energy usage increases, or decreases, this will have an impact on your actual expenditure for 2023-24.
These contracts are for lighting to the communal areas of blocks as well as power to door entry systems, passenger lifts and heating, where applicable.
There are several reasons for the high costs of electricity:
- Gas supply costs have influenced the price of electricity, as in the UK around 45% of our energy demand is created by burning gas to produce electricity
- Increase in crude oil prices
- Low levels of gas storage in Europe
- More emphasis on using liquid natural gas rather than gas produced from coal (after Conference of the Parties - COP26)
We recently went out to tender for new grounds maintenance contracts across Devon and Cornwall, which have now been awarded to several contractors for a initial period of three years with the opportunity to extend for a further two years. From April 2023, many estates now have a new grounds maintenance contractor, and in some cases this has led to an increase in the annual cost of the service.
There are lots of things which affect the cost of providing a grounds maintenance service, from staffing costs and insurance policies, to fuel costs and purchasing and maintaining equipment. The cost-of-living crisis has led to an increase in the operating costs for our contractors and, typically, the level of service you previously received may now cost far more.
The increased costs are unfortunately inevitable given the current climate, but it is important that we continue to provide a grounds maintenance service.
Caretaking / bin hire / bulk waste removal increases
We continue to see a significant rise in fly tipping and bulky waste collections on our estates. The cost of clearing these items isn’t covered by your council tax so if we can’t identify the fly tipper, clearance costs are passed onto the customer.
Your local council empties your bins, however we’re responsible for clearing up any bulk items and/or fly tipping. We pay our caretakers to be on hand to deal with fly tipping when it happens, to ensure that refuse collectors are not prevented from carrying out their duties because of blocked bin stores. The cost of bulk waste removal can differ from year to year, and this makes it very difficult to set an accurate budget.
Fire safety increases
Fire safety costs have increased because we’ve been completing additional servicing/maintenance works when recommended by Fire Risk Assessments (FRAs). In some cases, we’ve increased the frequency of FRAs. This includes installing more systems, that then need regular safety checks and maintenance. Due to the continued rise in inflation, the cost of servicing and repairs/maintenance of our fire safety systems, which are provided by external contractors, have increased slightly this year.
Where recommended by FRAs, the health and safety inspections which our Compliance Operatives carry out on blocks of flats have been increased from monthly to weekly. This is now an in-house service provided by Westward’s Compliance team, which has resulted in some cost savings.
Residents have reported seeing a lot more pests since 2020. People have been preparing more meals at home, rather than going out, and ordering more takeaway deliveries. This has meant more food waste in our communal bin areas, which has attracted more pests for us to deal with. Many residents have been spending considerably more time at home and may be noticing pest activity more than they previously would have.
Please talk to us if you are worried
We’re working hard to ensure that we provide you with all the help and advice we can.
If you are experiencing financial problems and are struggling to pay your bills, please visit Money Advice & Help for ways that we and other organisations may be able to support you. Alternatively, please visit www.turn2us.org.uk or contact your local citizens advice office for further financial help.
Or request a call back from one of our Financial Inclusion Officers by calling 0300 100 1010. Our Customer Enabling Hub can help with benefit and debt advice and we may be able to help arrange a payment agreement.
Read Your Service Charge Account Explained for more information or call and ask us any questions.
To see how much you are charged for your communal services please select the first letter from the list below for the name of your estate:
Service charges 2022-23
Service charges 2021-22 (last year)