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Frequently asked questions - about living in a shared ownership home

  • Q:

    What are actual service charges?

    A:

    Within 6 months after 31 March, we will account to you stating what the actual service charge expenditure was for that year against what you actually paid for the service during the year.

  • Q:

    When will I have to pay these charges?

    A:

    You should pay the invoice when it is received unless you have an arrangement to pay the charge on a monthly direct debit. If you are a shared owner your service charges are paid monthly in 12 instalments preferably by direct debit.

  • Q:

    How do I get a breakdown of my service charge?

    A:

    By contacting us in writing or by emailing contactus@amicushorizon.org.uk or by telephoning 0800 121 60 60

  • Q:

    When will I know what my service charge will be for the coming year?

    A:

    You will be notified of any changes to your service charge in the rent review letter which is sent out to you in February.

  • Q:

    What dates does the financial year run from and to?

    A:

    The financial year starts on 1 April and ends on 31 March. New service charges are set for 1 April each year.

  • Q:

    If I do not agree with my service charge do I have to pay them?

    A:

    If there is an element of service charge you dispute you should contact us to tell us which element of the charge you are disputing. Whilst we investigate this charge you must pay the rest of the service charge. We will write to you with our findings. If we uphold your dispute then we will either remove or reduce the charge whatever is appropriate. If we find not to uphold it then the charge will be due for payment.

  • Q:

    Where can I obtain independent debt advice?

    A:

    You should first contact us first if you are in financial difficulties. Under your lease, you must pay your rent and service charge regularly, but if you cannot do this you should contact Priority Payments immediately on 0800 121 60 60. We can then discuss an arrangement for you to pay any arrears (missed payments)and make a referral to Citizens Advice Bureau for loan re-scheduling and budgeting advice.

  • Q:

    How do I pay ground rent?

    A:

    If you pay ground rent this will be invoiced to you separately.

  • Q:

    What is a sinking fund?

    A:

  • Q:

    Do I have a separate sinking fund account?

    A:

    Yes your main service charges and major works costs are held separate accounts. We will collect the sinking fund money and this will be accounted for when we produce the year end statements.

  • Q:

    What is the management fee?

    A:

    All shared owners pay a fee to cover the Swale Housing costs to manage your property. This includes:

  • Q:

    Can I sublet my property?

    A:

    If you live in a shared ownership property you are not permitted to sub let your property as this contravenes the lease. However in exceptional circumstances AmicusHorizon may give permission, please see the Handbook link below or refer to your Homeownership handbook.

  • Q:

    Who services my gas boiler?

    A:

    You are responsible for the gas servicing of your gas boiler.

  • Q:

    What repairs am I responsible for?

    A:

    If you are a shared owner you are responsible for all internal repairs.

  • Q:

    Am I responsible for buildings insurance?

    A:

    If you pay a service charge your buildings insurance will be included.

  • Q:

    Am I responsible for contents insurance?

    A:

    Yes.

  • Q:

    Can I buy more shares in my property?

    A:

    Yes.

  • Q:

    Can I sell my shared ownership property?

    A:

    Yes.

  • Q:

    Can you buy some or all of my share back from me?

    A:

    In some extreme cases we will.

  • Q:

    I've decided to buy more shares in my property, where do I start?

    A:

    We'll arrange for your property to be valued.

  • Q:

    What is a leaseholder?

    A:

    Someone who has bought their home through Right to Buy or Right to Acquire.

  • Q:

    What happens if a leaseholder wants to sell their property?

    A:

    The leaseholder can sell the property to anyone through an estate agent.

  • Q:

    What if you're unable to find a buyer for my share?

    A:

    After the nomination period has expired, you can put your home on the open market.

  • Q:

    Can I take in a lodger?

    A:

    Yes - however, you are responsible for them and their conduct. You must make sure they keep to the conditions of your lease.

  • Q:

    Can I sublet my home?

    A:

    Before you consider subletting your shared ownership home, check if your mortgage provider (if you have one) would object to you doing so. Many mortgage agreements prohibit you from renting out the property to someone else. If you haven't yet 'staircased' to 100% ownership and only own a share in the property, then you must use the property as your main residence - i.e. you could not sublet the whole property to someone else. However, if you are in a property with two or more bedrooms then you may permitted to let one out, as long as you are still living in the property yourself and your mortgage provider agrees. If you own the property 100% then there is a possibility you may be able to fully sublet it, if your lease allows that and your mortgage provider has no objections. Please contact us if you need to discuss this in more detail.

  • Q:

    Can I carry out home improvements?

    A:

    Generally, yes. Obviously you can carry out minor works, such as putting up shelves or decorating, without consulting us - however if you plan to carry out major works, such as double glazing, replacing the kitchen or bathroom, taking down or putting up a wall or building an extension, then you'll need AmicusHorizon's written permission. Furthermore, if you are doing structural work to your home then we'll need to be provided with copies of the plans. You should also write to us and confirm that the work will be carried out by a reputable builder and will meet all necessary building regulations and planning requirements. You should also bear in mind that the value of your home may not increase by the full cost of any improvements made.

  • Q:

    Can I keep pets?

    A:

    Your lease will tell you if you can keep pets in your home. If you live in a house there are not usually any restrictions, however if you live in an apartment you are unlikely to be able to keep a pet loose in the property. However, small pets such fish, hamsters etc. which live in an enclosed cage or tank may be allowed upon request, on the condition that they are not allowed to roam the house and they do not cause smells or noise which would affect your neighbours. If your lease does not allow you to keep a cat or dog, occasionally we may allow you to keep one upon written request. If we give you permission to keep a pet you must make sure it doesn't cause a nuisance to your neighbours, and we will reserve the right to withdraw our permission at any time. If you already have a pet and are considering shared ownership, please contact us to check the specific requirements for your chosen property.

  • Q:

    How much rent will I pay?

    A:

    Shared ownership leaseholders pay a monthly rent for the part of the property they do not own. This is worked out as a percentage of the value of the un-owned share, and the rent will usually be reviewed every year. We are governed by the Homes & Communities Agency's rules which means our rents will not normally rise by more than the Retail Price Index plus 0.5%. Please refer to your lease for exact details of your rent increase.

  • Q:

    Why do I have to pay a service charges?

    A:

    If your home is a house, you will be responsible for all repairs and redecoration both internally and externally. We will insure the structure of your house, you will have to pay a service charge to cover this and help to meet our administrative costs. If your home is a flat, you will be responsible for all repairs and redecoration internally. We will undertake to keep the building in which you are situated in good structural repair, to keep the structure insured and to keep common parts, such as the staircase and corridors, decorated, cleaned and lit. You will have to pay a share of those costs - a Service Charge. We will tell you how the Service Charge is spent and consult you before any major repair or maintenance work is started. Any damage or defect should be reported to us immediately.

  • Q:

    How can I sell?

    A:

    You may sell at any time, but you must inform us in writing that you want to move. We will arrange for your property to be valued, for which you will need to pay a valuation fee in advance. You will also be required to pay the Association's legal costs when you sell your share. Unless you own the property outright, you will normally have a 'nomination period' in your lease. This is usually one or two months during which we will try to find a buyer from the HomeBuy Agent's register. We charge a fee for this service. If we can't find a purchaser within the nomination period, you can put your home on the open market - please bear in mind that an estate agent will also charge a fee for their services. There may also be a clause in your lease enabling us to restrict the sale price to the district or independent valuation. The reason for this is that we want the property to remain available to the people for whom Shared Ownership is intended.