We aim to make our website as accessible as possible. However if you use a screen reader and require debt advice you may find it easier to phone us instead. Our phone number is 0 8 0 0 1 3 8 1 1 1 1. Freephone (including all mobiles).
mum at the table with bills

Worried about your debts?

Debt happens, let's deal with it

Get help now

i England and Wales

Service charge and ground rent arrears

Leasehold properties often have service charges for maintenance costs. You may also pay ground rent to the freeholder as part of your lease.

Your lease document should explain how and when to pay your service charge and ground rent.

Falling behind could lead to further action including eviction and repossession.

Not sure what some of these words mean? See our mortgage jargon buster.

In Scotland, there is a similar thing called 'property factors'. For a fee, someone else will take care of the maintenance and repairs of a property. This is quite rare. Find out more about property factors.

Is your home at risk?

Free legal support is available.

The government's Housing Loss Prevention Advice Service can advise you on:

  • Illegal eviction
  • Rent arrears
  • Mortgage arrears
  • Issues with welfare benefits payments
  • Debt concerns
  • Disrepair and other problems with housing conditions

Find out more here.

What is a service charge?

A service charge covers the costs of any building repairs or maintenance.

This includes:

  • Drainage
  • Insurance
  • Management charges

You either pay your service charge:

  • Monthly, or
  • Quarterly

If you own the property:

Details about your service charge are included in your lease.

If you rent your property:

The service charge is usually:

  • Included in your rent
  • A priority debt
    • Not paying it can have serious consequences

The amount you pay for service charges:

  • Depends on the cost of the services to your landlord
  • Can vary year on year

This can make it hard to budget for changes in your service charge.

The freeholder should:

  • Charge you reasonable management fee and
  • Not make a profit

Find out about your service charge by:

  • Checking your lease, or
  • Talking to your landlord or management company

Contact the Leasehold Advisory Service to dispute how much you should pay.

Need help with service charge or ground rent arrears?

Money worries?

Find out how we can help you.

Get help now

I cannot afford my service charge. What should I do?

Contact the landlord or management company if you:

  • Cannot pay your service charge, or
  • You have fallen into arrears

The freeholder could take court action if you do not try to deal with the arrears.

In some cases, you could lose your home.

What is ground rent?

Ground rent is a payment you make to the freeholder of your property.

  • It is part of your lease
  • It may be around £100 to £200 a year

Information on ground rent should be in your lease.

What happens if I do not pay my ground rent?

The freeholder can apply to take back the property if you do not pay your ground rent.

This type of action is known as ‘forfeiture’.

The freeholder can only start taking court action if:

  • You are three or more years behind on your ground rent
  • You owe £350 or more in:
    • Rent
    • Service charges and
    • Administration charges

The freeholder does not have to follow this process if your ground rent is:

  • More than £250 a year, or
  • More than £1,000 a year in Greater London

In this case, they can apply to repossess your property.

The freeholder can evict you if:

  • You have ground rent arrears
  • For three months or more.

A court cannot protect you from this.

Contact Shelter for advice.

Ground rent is only payable on demand.

This means:

  • You do not have to pay until your landlord sends you a bill
  • Even if it is in the lease

You normally have four weeks to pay the arrears. After you pay:

  • Legal action stops
  • Your lease continues as normal

The freeholder can use bailiffs (enforcement agents) to evict you if:

  • The court orders you to pay ground rent arrears and
  • You do not pay

Has it been a while since your freeholder asked you for ground rent?

  • They cannot ask you to pay more than six years’ worth of backdated payments
  • They need to follow the correct process to ask you to pay for it

Get debt expert advice if you:

  • Have service charge or ground rent arrears, or
  • You find it hard to pay your bills