Leaseholders handbook [pdf document]

Join the leaseholder group and find out other ways to get involved

What is a leaseholder?

Leaseholders are people who are buying or have brought their Council flat from Darlington Borough Council, someone who has bought a flat from a leaseholder of Darlington Borough Council and takes over the lease or someone who inherits the lease in a will.

Leasehold ownership of a flat is simply a long term tenancy and the right to own a flat for the term of a lease.

What is a freeholder?

Darlington Borough Council is the freeholder, as we own the building in which you live.

We manage the housing and is responsible for looking after the structure, exterior and common areas of the block.

If you are interested in buying your flat there is right to buy [external link] information on the GOV.UK website.

Service charges

When you bought your lease, in effect you became a 'shareholder' in the building your flat is in. The service charge represents the cost to the landlord for providing services to you in your block and your communal areas.

The costs are shared equally among all the flats in the block (unless a cost belongs only to one flat or to part of a block). For example, if there are four flats in your block and three of them are rented to council tenants and the other is a leaseholder, the leaseholder will pay 25% (1/4) of the cost and we will pay 75% (3/4) for our tenants. The rent that council tenants pay covers the cost of repairs and services to council homes.

You will be sent a bill (invoice) every year around March/April, which includes a detailed statement regarding repairs. 

The bill will include charges for any repairs and maintenance, or major works that have been carried out during the year.

Your share of the cost for services and works is shown on your bill, and is usually based on the number of flats in the block.

Please note actual charges may increase or decrease from the estimate.

This will leave an amount that must be paid within 28 days.

We will also send you a statement in the autumn which shows the first 6 months of charges.  This is for information only and is not an actual bill.  This statement will assist you with any issues you may have in advance of your yearly bill. 

If you have a query with your statement or bill, email [email protected].

How to pay

You can pay the full amount within 28 days using different methods of payments.

You also can pay in monthly instalments by making arrangements with our Agresso Support Team on 01642 528385.

If you cannot pay your service charge bill, don't ignore it! It will not go away and you could end up losing your home if you don't try to pay it. Call us on 01325 405333 and we can help you.

What is included in my service charge?

  • Ground rent - a specific requirement of the lease and must be paid on the due date. By law we must give you notice that ground rent is due - no less than 30 days before and no more than 60 days after the day your ground rent is due to be paid. The ground rent is currently £10 a year.
  • Cleaner - the costs to us to provide a cleaning service to the block where you live where applicable.
  • Door entry - the costs to us to repair and maintain electrical equipment for the door entry system.
  • Structural insurance - the costs to the company (including insurance premium tax at 5%) to insure the structure of your property.  This is the cost to rebuild your property and not the market value alone.
  • Upkeep of grassed areas - the costs to maintain communal and individual areas of grassed land within the limits of your lease.
  • Major works - you will also be charged for other works that are carried out to the block.
  • Building insurance - we are required to take out adequate insurance for the building and the common parts. You will need to get content insurance to cover the possessions in your own flat.

Your lease

Leasehold ownership of a flat is simply a long tenancy and the right to own a flat for the term of a lease.

  • The lease is a contract between you and us. It gives you and your successors the right of possession of your flat for a fixed period (125 years at first) provided you keep to their terms of the lease.
  • The lease comes with conditions to protect the rights of everyone with an interest in the building.
  • The property can be bought and sold during the term of the lease.
  • The term is fixed at the start and then decreases in length year by year.  For example, after on year of a lease being available on a property, the term will drop to 124 years or, if you buy a leasehold flat from someone you will take it over at the current length of its term.
  • The lease sets out who is responsible for what: what you as the leaseholder has agreed to do, and what the landlord is required to do.
  • You should get a solicitor to look at the terms and conditions set out in the lease before you buy the lease.
  • The lease is a legal document so please keep it in a safe place.  We can provide you with a copy, at a cost, if you lose it.

To get a copy of your lease please contact us at [email protected] or 01325 405333.

Rights and responsibilities

There are several laws and acts protecting your rights as a leasehold tenant.

The Leasehold advisory service [external link]

You have the right to:

  • Ask your landlord to keep the 'common parts' of your block in a fit state of repair. We are responsible for:
    • foundations
    • outside walls
    • roofs, chimneys and chimney stacks
    • drains, gutters and pipes outside your home
    • outside decoration and decorations to entrance halls and shared areas
    • shared wiring and lighting, TV aerials 
    • keeping the boundary fences and walls as indicated on your lease plan in good repair and condition
    • communal heating
    • all decoration in common areas
    • any service pipes and cables that serve your flat only are your responsibility
  • To be consulted about major repairs for which you will have to pay a share.
  • To be consulted about agreements or contracts for services that the landlord wishes to buy in from outside the company for a period of over 12 months (for example: cleaning communal areas). 
  • To information about service charges and the right to challenge how reasonable those charges are.
  • To make alterations to the inside of your flat, as long as you do not remove structural walls or cause damage to the outside or shared parts of the building.
  • To expect your landlord to deal with problems in your block, such as neighbour nuisance.
  • To the 'quiet enjoyment' of your home, to live peacefully in your flat without interference from your neighbours or the landlord, as long as you keep to the conditions of your lease.
  • To sell your lease to anyone you want to. You can also leave it to someone in your will or give it as a gift.
  • To take in lodgers or rent your flat to anyone you want to. You do not have to ask our permission, but you must let us know if you do sublet, as it may affect your insurance.

You have a responsibility to:

  • Keep the inside of the flat in good order
  • Pay your share of the costs of managing and maintaining your block
  • Meet the living costs such as Council Tax, gas and electricity
  • You are responsible for repairs to the inside of your flat and the glass in your windows. When you make repairs, you must make sure no damage is done to shared areas or the structure of the block
  • You must not do repairs to landings, stairways and other shared areas, as you would not be covered by our insurance if you had an accident or caused damage
  • If you, your visitors or members of your household cause damage to shared areas you will have to pay for the repairs

Making alterations to your home

As a leaseholder, you have the right to improve your home but for some improvements you will need written permission from us. This is because as landlord, we have an investment in the block and a responsibility to the other residents.

You will need permission to

  • Change or add to the structure of your home
  • Install your own windows and doors (if you do install your own windows and door your painting charge will reduce. Please note that the outside window frames belong to the landlord)
  • Add an aerial or satellite dish
  • Carry out outside decoration (the type of paint may need approving so that it is compatible with future paints we may use)

If you want to go ahead with alterations/improvements, you must ask permission in writing from your management officer. You will need to ensure you advise them of the exact work you wish to do and a drawing or plan.  A Building Surveyor may need to visit your home to see what you intend to do, before we can make a decision.

We will not refuse permission unless we have a good reason.

If you go ahead with work after we have refused permission, you will be breaking the terms of your lease and we have the right to put things back as they were and charge you for it.  We will not charge you for permission before you carry out the work, but you will be charged if retrospective permission is required.

We do not need to know about minor work such as decorating.


If you think we are responsible for a repair, call 01325 405333 or visit our repair pages. Repairs reported by a leaseholder will receive the same priority as if reported by a tenant of the Council, and will be dealt with accordingly, depending on the urgency.

If you smell gas our emergency repairs page has further instructions.

It is important that we all get value for money from the repairs service.  If the job is not completed properly, or is not done within time, or you are not happy with the standard and quality of the work, please call 01325 405333 or email [email protected].

Major repairs

We have a responsibility to consult you about any works or service to your building or estate where you are likely to contribute more than:

  • £250 for works, such as external decoration and repairs and/or
  • £100 in any one year for each and every service, such as the cost of servicing a new lift

For any proposed capital works project you will receive two separate formal notices, sometimes three:

  • Stage 1 - Notice of Intent - sets out the landlords' proposed works
  • Stage 2 - Provision of Leaseholders' Estimates - sets out your contribution towards the work
  • Award of Contract - tells you which contractor we have selected to do the work

At each stage, you will have the right to make comments on our proposed works, which we then have to consider and respond to.

When major works are required to your block, such as lift installation, cavity wall insulation, window replacement or rewiring communal areas, we will confirm in writing:

  • The details of the proposed works
  • The estimated amount that you will be charged
  • When the works are expected to start

Your share of the cost of these works will be included as part of your service charge. Your share will usually depend on the number of flats in your block.  For example, if you live in a multi-storey block of 100 flats and a new lift is installed at a total cost of £100,000, as a leaseholder your charge would be £100,000 divided by 100, which is £1,000.

Please be aware that charges for Major Works can be high for schemes such as lift replacements, re-cladding or roof renewals.

Gas appliances

You must have all gas appliances serviced every year and send us a copy of your gas service certificate. If a certificate is not supplied, we can carry out the service and recover any costs from you.

If you want to install a gas appliance in your property you will need to ask a qualified Gas Safe engineer [external link] to carry out the fitting.

All gas hobs installed into a multi-dwelling building (such as a flat, maisonette or bedsit) require a Flame Failure Device.

Buildings Insurance

The fabric of the building is insured by the Council, through Zurich Municipal. You pay a proportion of the annual premium on your annual leaseholder statement. A copy of the Building Insurance policy is attached.

Building Insurance Policy [pdf document]

If you need to claim against the building insurance policy, please download the attached claim form or telephone Housing Services on 01325 405333 if you need further advice.

Claim Form [pdf document]