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How do you prepare the budgets for my service charges?

Service charges explained

1. How does FirstPort account for my service charges?

We prepare a budget or best estimate of what we believe we will spend on your service charges at the beginning of each financial year (this is set by the lease for your property and states the twelve month period on which your service charges must be accounted for). We start this process about three months before the accounting years starts – you will typically receive the finished budget about a month before the financial year begins. (If you live in an independent retirement living development you will usually be invited to a budget meeting, held by the Area Manager, where they will consult with you before the budget is finalised).

For newly built developments, the service charges are based on estimated costs. We make every attempt to make sure the budget is accurate and as close as possible to the actual future costs. Service charges may well be lower in the early months or even the first couple of years as we may not be providing all the services at your development, or not all parts of the development may be occupied. For established developments, the previous year’s costs are used to prepare the estimate for the coming year.

Following the end of the development’s financial year, the annual accounts are prepared and then audited by an independent accountant. A summary is then sent to every owner. Within the accounts that we send you will be a complete summary of everything that we have spent at your development – broken down by categories of expenditure. We highlight where expenditure hasn’t been in line with our estimate, giving an explanation for any significant differences. (If you live in an independent retirement living development you will be invited to a residents’ meeting held by the Area Manager where you can ask any questions). We keep a record of all invoices, and requests to see this information can be made at any time.

2. Why can the amount I need to pay vary?

There is often a need to adjust the amount of service charge you owe after the year-end as it is unlikely that our estimate will exactly equal the amount we spent during the year. This adjustment can be a credit (if we overestimate) or a debit (if we underestimate). If we underestimate, an invoice will be sent to you for the balance due. If we overestimate, the adjustment is credited to your account and will reduce your next service charge payment.

3. Where do you keep the money I pay you?

The service charge (and reserve/contingency) money you pay FirstPort is held in a bank account under what’s called a statutory trust. This means that should anything happen to FirstPort, such as it went into liquidation, your money is kept safe and outside the liquidation process. The account is held at Barclays Bank in your development’s name. This account is held completely separate from all other FirstPort accounts. Any interest is paid into the account and is for the benefit of residents at the development.

Funds in your development bank account are safe, completely independent and can only be used for the purposes of your specific development.

All our bank accounts are protected by the UK regulator, the Financial Services Authority (FSA) and the Financial Services Compensation Scheme (FSCS).

4. Where can I find more information on service charges?

For residents in general residential developments, we send your estimated service charges for the next financial year prepared by the Property Manager. They will be happy to answer any questions on the budget they have set for the year. Please get in touch with your Property Manager via your Customer Services team.

5. When do I pay my service charge?

Details of when you need to pay your service change can be found in your lease. If your lease specifies that your service charge needs to be paid once or twice throughout the year, but you want to set up a regular direct debit to pay your service charge, then a £24 fee will be applied to your account to cover the extra administration involved. Simply contact our customer service team to set up a regular direct debit for your service charge.