What items can the landlord include in service charges?

This should be clearly set out in the service charge provisions contained in the lease. If an item is not included in these provisions then the landlord may not be able to recover his/her expenditure. Many leases contain “sweeper” clauses that allow the landlord to claim for items not specifically covered elsewhere. Normally the lease covers items such as the painting, decorating, repair and maintenance of the common parts and the exterior of the property, roof and lift repairs, the repair or replacement of plant and machinery, grounds maintenance, provision of a caretaker service, building insurance and the payment of agents/management fees etc.

What control do I have over service charges?

It’s important to get the right terms in the lease in the first place. It would be useful to consult the RICS Code of Practice on Service Charges in Commercial Property which contains useful guidance material. Information about the Code, and details of how to download a copy, are available at http://www.servicechargecode.co.uk/

If you are unhappy about the provision of services for which you are charged, you may be able to refer the issue to the Courts under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 or as a simple matter of breach of contract. Seek professional advice before doing so.