Birmingham City Council

FAQ Leasehold

What do you mean by ‘leasehold’?
Property held under a lease is described as ‘leasehold.’ The property is owned by a freeholder (a landlord or lessor) who sells the property under a lease. The buyer of the lease will then own the property for a set number of years, becoming a leaseholder.

The leaseholder does not own the land on which the property standards and generally has to pay ground rent and service charges to the landlord.

Birmingham City Council owns the freehold to over 4,400 flats and maisonettes that have been sold through the Right to Buy, and leases these properties out. Our Leasehold Team supports Birmingham City Council leaseholders.

These Frequently Asked Questions explain the some of the issues affecting leaseholders.

What charges do I have to pay as a leaseholder?
What are service charges?
How does the First-Tier Tribunal - Property Chamber (Residential Property) work?
What is ground rent?
I have heard that you may do major work on my building. What is a major work?
What does the Decent Homes programme mean for me?
What happens if I can’t pay my service charges, major works or ground rent invoices?
What if my home needs repairs?
Can I make improvements to my home?
Can I become more involved in helping to monitor your service to leaseholders?
How else can I share my views on your service to leaseholders?
Who can I contact to find out more about leaseholds?

What charges do I have to pay as a leaseholder?
Birmingham City Council’s leaseholders pay towards council tax, service charges, major works and ground rent plus the usual household bills such as water rates, gas and electricity.

What are service charges?
Your service charge pays for services to your building such as general maintenance, repairs, buildings insurance, lifts, concierge service, caretaking, lighting, grounds maintenance and cleaning of communal areas. You will be invoiced for your service charge annually, and we ask you to pay within 28 days of receiving your invoice unless you have made an arrangement with us to pay by installments.

Your leasehold handbook will explain the standards you can expect for the services that you are paying for.

Service charges can go up or down, but we always aim to ensure that what you pay is reasonable. You have the right to query service charges by contacting the Leasehold Team. If you are unhappy with the outcome you can challenge the charges with the First-Tier Tribunal - Property Chamber (Residential Property) (FTT) who will decide if the charge is reasonable.

How does the First-Tier Tribunal - Property Chamber (Residential Property) work?
There isn’t a definition of what level of service charge is considered to be ‘reasonable.’ As a result, both the council and the leaseholder have the right to challenge a service charge with the The First-Tier Tribunal - Property Chamber (Residential Property) (FTT). The FTT is an independent decision making body which is completely unconnected to the parties or any other public agency.

The FTT will look at the evidence and then a decision will be made.

You can apply to the FTT whether the service charge has been paid or not. However, you can’t apply if the charges have already been agreed by the parties involved, or have been determined by a court or by post-dispute arbitration.

To find out more about the FTT, visit: www.justice.gov.uk/tribunals/residential-property


What is ground rent?
This is a sum of money paid to the freeholder – in this case, Birmingham City Council – as a condition of the lease. The amount of ground rent payable on the property will be specified in your lease. It is due annually, or half annually, as specified in your lease, and you should pay on the date it is due.

I have heard that you may do major work on my building. What is a major work?
Under the terms of your lease, we have to repair and maintain the structure, exterior and communal areas (such as entrances and hallways) of the building and the services used by more than one tenant or leaseholder. We ask leaseholders to make a proportionate contribution to the cost of the work.

Major works are repairs where a leaseholder’s individual contribution to the cost of the work is more than £250. Examples of major work are window replacement, re-roofing, rewiring, communal decorations and lift refurbishment or replacement. We will consult you about a proposed major work before it is undertaken.

Once we have incurred the costs, we will invoice all leaseholders affected within 18 months of the costs being incurred and ask you to pay within 28 days of the date of the invoice.

What does the Decent Homes programme mean for me?
The government has introduced a Decent Homes standard, which means that all council-owned homes must be warm, wind and watertight and have reasonably modern facilities by the year 2010. We have a programme in place that will allow us to bring the majority of our homes up to this standard by 2010.

Leaseholders who live in blocks where Decent Homes work is being carried out could receive major work service charge invoices for replacement gutters, fascias, soffits and windows. As above, if your share of the cost of the work is more than £250, we will consult you about the work before it is undertaken.

What happens if I can’t pay my service charges, major works or ground rent invoices?
If you have problems paying any of your charges you should telephone the Leasehold Team immediately on 0121 303 2147 or 303 2148. A member of the team can advise you about payment options and look at whether you may qualify for benefits.

If you are faced with a large major works bill that you can't afford to pay then you might be able to get help through the Leaseholders' Extended Payment Scheme. This scheme allows you to pay off large bills for major works over a long period. You may be given up to ten years to pay very large amounts. To find out how to access this scheme please telephone us on 0121 303 2147 or 303 2148.

If you are continually unable to pay your charges, as a last resort we can forfeit the lease and repossess your maisonette or flat.

What if my home needs repairs?
There are some repairs that leaseholders are responsible for themselves. Full details will be set out in your lease, but in summary, the repairs leaseholders are responsible for include:

  • internal washers/main stopvalve (to your fixtures/appliances)
  • repairs to burst or leaking pipes inside the property
  • repairs or replacement to the water tank inside the property
  • repair or replacement of baths, sinks, taps, basins or WC’s
  • leaks or repairs to waste pipes, traps and fittings
  • flooring inside the flat and internal walls
  • staircases inside the property
  • decoration inside the property including the interior window frames and sills
  • glazing to the windows
  • internal doors including the front door and back door to the property, frames fittings and locks
  • repairs to fitted cupboards
  • electrics inside the property
  • individual heating systems inside the wall
  • boundaries and fences to leaseholder’s own gardens.

For repairs that the council is responsible for (to the structure and shared areas of your block) you will need to report the damage to one of our repairs providers on 0800 073 3333. The repairs call centres are open 24 hours a day, 365 days of the year.

For more information on repairs, please see our Council Housing Repairs page.

Can I make improvements to my home?
Yes, but it’s a condition of your lease that you should check with the council before you make any alterations. Please telephone the Leasehold Team for advice on 0121 303 2147 or 303 2148.

Can I become more involved in helping to monitor your service to leaseholders?
Yes you can – there are two main ways to get involved:

Firstly, you could join a recognised tenants’ association (RTA.) There are currently eight RTAs in Birmingham and an RTA has more rights than individual leaseholders when it comes to major work. To find out whether there is an RTA covering your building, telephone the Leasehold Services team on 0121 303 2147 or 303 2148.

Secondly, you may be able to join our Leaseholders Liaison Board (LLB) which is made up of leaseholders who were elected from Birmingham’s 11 constituencies. The LLB looks at a range of issues that are important to leaseholders, such as service charges and major works. Elections to the board are held every two years and all leaseholders are invited to stand for election.

Find out more about resident involvement, and the leaseholder liaison board.

How else can I share my views on your service to leaseholders?
Please email your comments to leasehold.team@birmingham.gov.uk or write to Leasehold Services Team, Mole Street, Sparkbrook, Birmingham B11 1XA.

Who can I contact to find out more about leasehold matters?
You can telephone the Leasehold Team on 0121 303 2147 or 303 2148.

You can also find out more about leasehold matters and leaseholder rights online at: www.lease-advice.org/publications/documents/document.asp?item=7.