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Frequently Asked Questions

Great Denham & Land West of Kempston development - annual charge to property owners for maintenance of open spaces explained

 

Q. Has their been a debate at a meeting of the Council about charging the annual sum?

Yes.  There was a debate at the meeting of the Full Council on 12 July 2017 following two petitions presented to the Council expressing concerns about the charge.  The Council resolved the following:

“Council notes the ongoing communication between the Council and the community on this matter, and thanks the parish council and local residents for their engagement with the Council. 

Council expresses its disappointment that many residents were unaware of their liability for this charge, which is included in the title deeds for each property and which should have been explained to them at the time they purchased their property.

Council further notes that over 75% of residents have paid, or are paying the charge, and thanks those who have done so.

Council undertakes to provide maximum possible transparency to residents in respect of the use of the funds raised via the charge, including accounts displaying income and expenditure.

Council undertakes to continue to engage with the Town and Parish councils and residents' groups, with ward councillors and with residents directly on this matter.”

 

Q. What is the Annual Sum?

A. Its is a payment that must be made by the owner of each property towards the cost of maintaining open spaces in the development.  It is calculated as a portion of the costs incurred by the Council for maintenance of the various areas of open space created by the developer to benefit the development at Great Denham and West Kempston and the administration of that scheme.

 

Q. How and when was the Annual Sum created?

A. The requirement to pay the Annual Sum is set out in the original Transfer Deed which was completed when you (or the first purchaser of the new home) purchased the property. 

This document created a binding contractual arrangement by the owner of the property to pay the Annual Sum. The Council has agreed to take on the administration of the scheme and the management and maintenance of the open space within the development .Your solicitor should have advised you of your responsibilities at time of purchase.

 

Q. How much is the annual sum?

A. For the time being this will be £120.

 

Q. When will I receive this Annual Charge?

A. Invoices will be issued in February or March each year.

 

Q. I am already paying a regular sum to the developer, is this the same charge?

A. Probably not.  Most property owners in the development are also required to pay a charge to meet the cost of maintaining the area immediately adjacent to the property.  This can include shared driveways, communal parking, lawns and shrubs.  You should check the request for payment from the developer or management company which should show what the payment is for.

 

Q. Are their any other charges linked with this scheme?

A.  Yes, there is a notice fee to be paid when the ownership of a property changes.

 

Q. What is the Notice Fee and how much is ?

A. The notice fee is a charge that must be paid as part of transferring the title of the property to a new owner, for the time being for the notice is £40 + VAT.

 

Q. Does the Council ensure the Amenity Areas are in a satisfactory condition upon handover?

A. The Council will inspect all areas and ensure that they are fit for purpose before it accepts a transfer of any of them.

 

Q. Is the maintenance of the country park paid for out of the charge?

A. No.  There is a separate agreement with the developers regarding maintenance of the country park; with the exception of the management and maintenance of the children's play areas within the country park which will be paid for from the annual sum payments. 

 

Q. Is the maintenance of grass verges paid for out of the charge?

Grass verges will normally be classed as part of the highway and are not open spaces for the purpose of the charge.  The developer will continue to be responsible for maintaining highway verges until such time as the highway may be adopted by the Council.

 

Q. Will the costs of the annual charge vary across the development, depending on the size of the property or number of people living in it?

A. No. The charges are levied at the same rate for all properties. The number of people living the property does not affect them.

 

Q. Is the charge increased every year?

A. The original Transfer Deed states that the sum is a proportionate part of the sums incurred in managing and maintaining the open space OR £120 whichever is the greater. Until further notice, the Council will set the Annual Sum at £120 which is the minimum sum chargeable.

 

Q.  Do I have to pay any arrears?

A.  The Council understands that no owners have been asked to pay the Annual Sum to date other than when the property was first purchased.   The Council will not be asking for payment of any amounts that were due to be paid before 1 April 2017.

 

Q. If I rent out the property am I responsible for the annual charge?

A. Yes. Property owners are responsible for the charge and will need to make their own appropriate payment arrangements with tenants or leaseholders. 

 

Q. How do I pay?

A. An invoice setting out the Annual Sum will be sent annually and payment options will be shown on the invoice.

 

Q. Can I pay by instalments?

A. Yes, payment can be made by instalments by direct debit only.,

 

Q.  How much are the instalments?

A.  Normally you will have to pay in advance.  Payments for the following year's charge will begin in April each year and you will pay 1/12th of the annual charge (currently £10.00) each month so that the full charge is paid by the time the payment is due.

However there is not sufficient time to allow monthly instalments in advance for the annual sum due on 1 April 2017 for the 2017/18 financial year.  Therefore, for 2017/18 only payment of the sum due on 1 April 2017 will be accepted over 12 monthly instalments from 1 April 2017.  This means that both the 2017/18 and 2018/19 annual sums can be paid monthly together and the monthly payment during 2017/18 year will be £20.00 (£10.00 toward the sum due on 1 April 2017 and £10.00 towards the sum due on 1 April 2018). 

 

From 1 April 2018 the monthly instalments will be for just the annual sum that will become due on 1 April 2019.     

 

Q. What happens if I don’t pay?

A. If you do not pay the full amount within 28 days of the payment date interest may be added at 4% above the bank rate.  Ultimately, the Council may seek a County Court Judgement against you and take action to enforce payment of the amount due and the Council’s costs in enforcing payment.  The amount due is registered as a local land charge and you will not be able to sell the property without paying the arrears.

 

Q. Don’t I already pay for this service in my Council Tax bill?

A. No.  The Council has not included any costs for managing or maintaining the open spaces in calculating the amount of Council Tax payable. 

 

Q. Can’t the annual sum just be added on to my Council Tax bill?

A. No.  The annual sum is not part of the Council Tax charge and by law the Council must send a separate invoice.

 

Q. I rent out my property, why doesn’t the tenant pay the annual sum?

A. The terms of the transfer of the property to you as the owner place a legal obligation on you to pay the annual sum.  The Council cannot charge the annual sum to a tenant.

 

Q. The property is empty; do I still have to pay?

A. Yes, the annual sum must be paid regardless of whether or not the property is occupied.

 

Q. If I sell the property after I pay the invoice will I be entitled to a refund?

A. No.  The sum is payable by the person who owns the property on the day the annual sum becomes due.  There is no reduction in the annual sum if the property is sold at a later date.

 

Q. I am the first owner of a new property and I have paid the initial amount of £120 after 1 April 2016, do I still have to pay the full annual sum on 1 April 2017?

A. No.  You should advise the Council of the date you completed the purchase of the property and your charge for 2017/18 will be adjusted so that you do not pay twice for the same period.

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