FAQs

Frequently Asked Questions

We take the job of managing and maintaining our developments seriously.  We are committed to being open and transparent in our communications with our homeowners and aim to provide a best-practice management service. 

The following answers a number of frequently asked questions about our management services and associated costs in our developments.  If you have any further queries, please call us on 0800 201 4811. 

Do you provide your own management services?

Yes. Property management and maintenance are important parts of our Customer service offering.  In 2010, we established our own in-house management companies to manage all new Retirement Living and Assisted Living developments. 

McCarthy & Stone Management Services delivers an efficient management service, overseeing all communal service and maintenance requirements in new Retirement Living developments. 

YourLife Management Services, a 50/50 partnership between McCarthy & Stone Management Services and Somerset Care Group, a large and very experienced not-for-profit care operation, provides a similar service in new Assisted Living developments. YourLife Management Services also provides a range of flexible care and support services within these developments.   

Each of our developments has an on-site manager and our area managers visit each development on a regular basis. This means that we have a day-to-day relationship with most of our homeowners and, in many cases, their family and friends. We also hold weekly coffee mornings and yearly service charge budget and accounts meetings across each development. 

Our approach links together property development, management expertise, support and care to provide a holistic service and single point of contact for our Customers. 

We set up our in-house services in response to Customer feedback. McCarthy & Stone’s Customers wanted to be reassured that the relationship they established with McCarthy & Stone through the sales process would be maintained while they live in their apartment. This gives certainty about their management service provider and the quality and standard of service delivered. As a result, we now have a long-term involvement with our developments. In schemes constructed prior to the summer of 2010, it is currently the case that these management services are provided by a third party.

What does your service charge cover?

Our management businesses, and subsequent service charges, reflect the expectations of our Customers and the Landlord (McCarthy & Stone Retirement Lifestyles) and the range of services required under the terms of the lease. For example, we employ staff on each development, tender for all work with independent service providers and don’t take any commission or receive retrospective rebates.

In our Retirement Living schemes, the service charge covers a range of services provided for homeowners, such as the House Manager, 24 hour emergency call system, intruder alarm, camera door entry system, buildings insurance, laundry facilities, maintenance, water, sewerage, window cleaning and heating of the communal areas, among other items. We believe the charge provides good value for money. We do not provide any of these services ourselves, with the exception of the House Manager, who is employed by us. A full list of services can be found here. At some of our most recent developments, the service charge also includes the cost of heating within the apartments.

In our Assisted Living schemes, in addition to the items set out above, the service charge also includes the running cost of the restaurant (with a small additional cost payable per meal eaten in the restaurant, which is typically £3.80 for a three-course meal prepared on-site) and one-hour of domestic support per week from our care team. Our team, which can total up to 17 people per development, is based on-site 24 hours a day, 365 days a year and is registered with the Care Quality Commission in England and its equivalent bodies in Scotland and Wales. Domestic support covers whatever time-consuming chores our homeowners would like undertaken, such as cleaning, shopping, running errands and domestic help. Our homeowners choose how best to use this support. 

Additional personal care packages in our Assisted Living developments are totally flexible and can be adapted to suit our Customers’ needs, including help with going to bed and getting up in the morning, a sitting, night sleeping or waking service, preparing breakfast, getting to and from appointments or regular assistance during a period of convalescence. All care and support services in Assisted Living developments can be provided by our on-site care staff.

Homeowners are under no obligation to take care packages from us and can use a third party if preferred.  For a list of the additional care and support packages provided in our Assisted Living schemes, please click here

How much is your service charge?

Our service charge varies slightly from development to development reflecting their different sizes and facilities, but they are formulated the same across the country.  A summary of what is included is provided above. 

For a typical Retirement Living apartment (based on Emma Court in Basingstoke), the service charge is £35.48 per week for a one-bedroom apartment for the financial year of 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015.  For a two-bedroom apartment, it is £53.22 per week.

For a typical Assisted Living apartment (based on Lady Susan Court in Basingstoke), the service charge is £116.75 per week for a one-bedroom apartment for the financial year of 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015.  For a two-bedroom apartment, it is £156.72 per week.

 Costs in Assisted Living developments are higher than in Retirement Living schemes to reflect the increased staffing costs, the provision of domestic support packages, and the table-service restaurant provided on-site. More information can be found here

Is it more expensive to live in one of your apartments than my current home?

While this will depend on individual circumstances, we find that, in most cases, service charges for one of our apartments are lower than like-for-like costs in a Customer’s previous property.  In addition, heating costs are very often lower due to our modern construction methods and, most likely, the more manageable size of the new apartment.

When Customers discuss the purchase of a McCarthy & Stone apartment with us, they receive a service charge leaflet and our Sales Consultant sits down with them to help them fill in the costs, review what is covered in the management services and compare them to day-to-day running costs in their current home.  Our Sales Consultant ensures that they have a detailed knowledge of ongoing costs before a sale is completed. 

Will costs increase after I move in?  How are budgets set?

Our service charges are fixed on an annual cycle from 1 April to 31 March the following year and reflect the costs of the services we procure on behalf of our homeowners.

Our policy is one of complete transparency. We openly share the individual costs that make up the service charge with homeowners and outline the methods for calculating the resulting charge. The service charge for each year is agreed in consultation with homeowners through an open-book budgeting process.

We do our very best to negotiate the best cost with third party service providers on behalf of our homeowners.  As part of our system of checks and controls to ensure they are treated fairly, we regularly monitor service charges in our managed schemes against current market practices and third party providers to ensure we offer competitive rates.  We have developed a simple chart to help Customers make a direct comparison for use during the sales process and a full breakdown of the service charge budget is available from our Sales Consultants and House Managers at all new developments.  

Do I need to pay ground rent, how much is it and how is it set?

Ground rents are payable in England and Wales, but not Scotland, which operates under a different legal system.  As with all leasehold properties in England and Wales, ground rents are a condition of the lease for our apartments.  The level of ground rent reflects the size of the development and the level of service it provides.  Ground rent in retirement apartments can be higher than mainstream apartments because they include more communal facilities, such as the lounge, the laundry, the guest suite and, in Assisted Living developments, a dining room and restaurant.  These facilities are not saleable as they are retained for the use of all homeowners.

For a typical Retirement Living apartment (based on Emma Court in Basingstoke), ground rents for the financial year of 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015 are £8.15 per week for a one-bedroom apartment.  For a two-bedroom apartment, they are £9.49 per week. 

For a typical Assisted Living apartment (based on Lady Susan Court in Basingstoke) ground rents for the financial year of 1 April 2014 to 31 March 2015 are £8.34 per week for a one-bedroom apartment.  For a two-bedroom apartment, they are £9.78 per week.

There are differences between one and two bed apartments. The landlord sets the difference at a figure which it considers fairly reflects the size difference in apartments. While it would be possible to base the difference on actual square footage, this would be a complicated exercise and would lead to minor variations in ground rents between comparable apartments within any given development which would be administratively complex and could cause confusion.

Ground Rents are fixed for 15 years.  They are reviewed on the fifteenth anniversary of the date of commencement of the term and each successive fifteenth anniversary from that date.  Increases are linked to either the movement in the Retail Price Index (RPI) since the last review, or if greater, by 2% per annum, and is compounded yearly.

How do your ground rents compare to other providers?

The ground rents charged are comparable with those charged by other providers of retirement living accommodation and are competitive within the industry.  

What is the ground rent for?

Ground Rent is the Freeholder’s charge for land on which leasehold buildings stand.  With McCarthy & Stone developments, the freeholder retains a substantial investment in a proportion of the development, including the House Manager’s office, the communal lounge, etc.  The level of ground rent, which can be higher than in conventional leasehold developments, is designed to ensure that, despite the passage of time, the freeholder maintains sufficient interest in the investment to provide effective management for the residents, for instance, should the building be damaged or destroyed.

Is McCarthy & Stone the freeholder and / or landlord of its developments?

McCarthy & Stone Retirement Lifestyles is the landlord in all new developments from September 2008.  On new developments where the freehold has been sold, it is a condition of the sale that McCarthy & Stone Retirement Lifestyles remains as the head landlord to ensure continuity for its homeowners and to ensure that they do not have to deal with any third party.

Do you sell the ground rents, why are they sold and who are they sold to?

The freehold reversionary interests (ground rents) are sold but only on terms where McCarthy & Stone retains a headleasehold interest thus remaining as immediate landlord with an ongoing responsibility and accountability for management of the developments concerned and a continuing direct relationship with the homeowners. The sales are made to trusted and reputable investment companies. The proceeds of such sales help to secure a robust capital structure for McCarthy & Stone.

How are your services regulated?

McCarthy & Stone Management Services is a member of the Association of Residential Managing Agents and the Housing Ombudsman Service.  YourLife Management Services is regulated by the Care Quality Commission in England and its equivalent bodies in Scotland and Wales for the care services it provides.  McCarthy & Stone Retirement Lifestyles is a member of the National House Builders Council (which has its own consumer code, Customer charter and sheltered housing code) and the Home Builders Federation. 

Leasehold properties are governed by a number of regulatory bodies, including:

  • The National House Builders Council (which requires leases to be properly explained to new residents);
  • Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors
  • The Association of Residential Managing Agents; and
  • The Association of Retirement Housing Managers.  

McCarthy & Stone abides by the rules of each of these organisations and is a member of ARMA (http://www.arma.org.uk).  We propose to join the new ARMA-Q system when it is established in 2015. 

How long are your leases and can they be renewed?

Our leases are for 125 years.  Leases can be extended and you can find out further information from the Leasehold Advisory Service.

What is your complaints procedure and how do you promote it?

Both McCarthy & Stone Management Services and YourLife Management Services have detailed complaints procedures that are clearly communicated to Customers in the Purchasers Information Pack which is given to all new homeowners when they complete their purchase.  They are also provided in developments.  All complaints are formally acknowledge in writing within three working days of receipt and are responded to within 25 working days for McCarthy & Stone Management Services and 28 working days for YourLife Management Services.

We will always try to understand and resolve complaints as and when they arise. Sometimes they are within our area of responsibility and/or control and sometimes outside. Homeowners have a range of options depending on the nature of their complaint. Hopefully they can be dealt with internally, however if the issue can’t be resolved in this way then there are external bodies who can adjudicate, including one of the trade bodies mentioned above, industry regulators, the Housing Ombudsman or the First-Tier Tribunal (Property Chamber).

We are pleased that we have not had any complaint taken to an independent third party for adjudication since our management services teams were established. 

Do you promote Right to Manage?  

We support and promote Right to Manage where homeowners wish to explore this path.  Information on Right to Manage is provided to every homeowner in the Purchasers Information Pack which explains the residents’ rights, including the right to set up their own management company or to go to a third party provider.  There are websites offering advice and assistance to homeowners wanting to exercise this right.  We are pleased to say that none of our homeowners in our managed schemes have decided to set up their own Right to Manage company or have gone to a third party, and are happy for us to provide these services on their behalf. 

Can homeowners set up their own residents’ associations and what rights does an association have?

Residents’ associations are encouraged in our developments. They exist primarily for the benefit of homeowners in matters of negotiation, repair schedules, finance and social activities and as such will have a formal constitution, but residents can also use the meetings to air their views.  We are committed to dealing with individual residents’ needs and concerns on a one-to-one basis and residents’ associations do not replace the personal touch. However, they may help in streamlining communication and lead to a better understanding and faster resolution of matters concerning residents as a whole.

Do you support further regulation in the industry?

Yes. The residential property management sector has developed over the years through legislation, Landlord & Tenant Acts, and codes of practice, such as those of the Association of Residential Managing Agents, the Association of Retirement Housing Managers, and the National House Builders Council, and there is generally a good understanding of expectations.

Through the actions McCarthy & Stone has taken, and the management services that McCarthy & Stone Management Services and YourLife Management Services provides, we believe that we have addressed areas of potential concern.

However, we recognise that there is further room for improvement elsewhere in the industry and therefore support the registration of managing agents, recognition of minimum standards and the introduction an industry-wide accreditation scheme and adjudication process as proposed with ARMA-Q, which we propose to join when it is established in 2015.  We believe this would give greater transparency and consistency and would help with the communication of service standards and delivery across the industry. 

Are your management staff qualified?

Yes. McCarthy & Stone Management Services requires its senior operational staff to have relevant property and / or management experience, usually educated to degree level.  Its House Managers and Area Manager have a broad range of backgrounds, knowledge, experience and qualifications. 

YourLife Management Services requires its senior operational staff to have relevant property and / or management experience, usually educated to degree level.  Its Estate Managers are required to be NVQ qualified to degree-level and are individually registered with the Care Quality Commission in England and its equivalent bodies in Scotland and Wales.

What training do you offer your management staff?

Both McCarthy & Stone Management Services and YourLife Management Services encourage its management staff to be professionally qualified together with appropriate knowledge and experience.  This is supported by comprehensive induction training and ongoing updates through internal and external training, and general support as required.

In addition, YourLife Management Services encourages all care workers to achieve NVQ 2 and provides the obligatory care course as per the regulations outlined by the Care Quality Commission (including manual handling, medication handling and dementia training).  In addition, Duty Managers are supported to achieve NVQ 4 and above by loans out of salary.

Are retirement apartments a good investment?  Do they hold their value when they need to be resold?           

We believe that our apartments represent a good long-term investment, particularly when compared to the alternative of renting or moving into a care-home.  Our research shows that our properties generally track the ups and downs of the housing market.  As well as buying their own beautiful apartment, our Customers recognise that they are also buying a lifestyle based around security and companionship, as well as a share in many communal facilities. 

To support owners and their families when they come to sell their apartment, McCarthy & Stone offers advice to help homeowners and their families.  Further information can be found here

Do you charge a transfer or exit fee on the subsequent sale of an apartment in one of your new developments?

No. A transfer fee, which is also known as an exit fee, was a cost paid directly to the freeholder of a development when an apartment was sold or rented out. Such a payment was for the benefit of the freeholder. On 1 September 2008, McCarthy & Stone abolished this fee on all leases in all new McCarthy & Stone developments built after that date. In addition, we do not collect any transfer fee on or after 1 September 2008 where we are the landlord even if the lease provided for its payment before purchase.

On developments constructed by us before September 2008 and where third parties own the freehold, we are unable to control whether a transfer fee will be levied on the sale of apartments in those developments. If a transfer fee remains applicable in these older properties, the terms in the lease are transparent and have been disclosed to the owner of the apartment.

McCarthy & Stone supports the removal of transfer fees from all retirement developments and we have led the way for this to become an industry standard. 

Do you charge contingency fees on your developments and how are they different to transfer fees?    

It is important that Customers do not face any unexpected financial burdens in their new home resulting from, for example, the need to undertake any major refurbishment or structural repairs on the development.  In order to provide confidence that there is enough money available to meet this work, the service charge includes a small charge to help cover unexpected costs such as these.  This is called the Contingency Fund, and is similar to a ‘sinking fund’.  It is a specific fund kept in the development’s own bank account.  It is held in trust and its use is restricted to the maintenance of that development and cannot be accessed by McCarthy & Stone.  It is there for the benefit of all homeowners

In order to keep this weekly cost – and hence the service charge – to a minimum, the development’s specific Contingency Fund is ‘topped up’ by a one-off charge of 1% of the resale price upon the sale or rent of the apartment.  McCarthy & Stone may waive the payment of the charge if the tenancy agreement for the rental is, for example, for six months or less and substitute a month’s market rent instead. The rental requirement may also be less in certain developments.  Full details of the Contingency Fund are outlined in the lease and further information can be provided by our Sales Consultant or House Manager if you have any queries during the sales process.

These fees are communicated to potential Customers before completing a purchase in the leases and sales literature.  McCarthy & Stone is committed to a fully transparent communications process with all of its Customers.

If I need any support with the costs, or I run out of money after moving, what help do you provide?

We find that in most cases, service charges for one of our apartments are lower than like-for-like costs in a purchaser’s previous property so homeowners rarely have difficulties with ongoing costs. In addition, heating costs are very often lower due to our modern construction methods and, most likely, the more manageable size of the new apartment.

All prospective homeowners receive details of ongoing costs before completing a purchase in the leases and all sales literature in order to ensure Customers fully understand the costs of living in a development.  In addition, when Customers discuss the purchase of a McCarthy & Stone apartment with us, they receive a service charge leaflet and our Sales Consultant sits down with them to help them fill in the costs, review what is covered in the management services and compare them to day-to-day running costs in their current home.  Our Sales Consultants ensure that Customers have a detailed knowledge of ongoing costs before a sale is completed. 

Our policy is one of complete transparency.  We openly share the individual costs that make up the service charge with residents and outline the methods for calculating the resulting charge.  The service charge for each year is agreed in consultation with residents in our managed schemes through an open-book budgeting process. 

We do our very best to negotiate the best cost with third party service providers on behalf of our residents.  As part of our system of checks and controls to ensure they are treated fairly, we regularly monitor service charges in our managed schemes against current market practices and third party providers to ensure we offer competitive rates.  We have developed a simple chart to help Customers make a direct comparison for use during the sales process and a full breakdown of the service charge budget is available from our Sales Consultants and House Managers at all new developments.  

We will always work with homeowners who do experience financial difficulties to agree a way forward.  McCarthy & Stone also offers support to all of its Customers and those enquiring about a property to help them understand what Government benefits are available and how much financial support each Customer could expect to receive.  Our in-house benefits expert, Colin Cuthbert, helps Customers to identify entitlements they perhaps didn’t know existed.  Over the past two years, Colin has helped our Customers claim more than £1 million in unclaimed benefits. 

For example, it is possible that certain costs, such as ground rents and service charges could be covered by entitlements such as Pension Credit.  The most common areas of advice include Council Tax benefit, Attendance Allowance, and state pension advice. 

For a free and confidential review of the benefits that you may be entitled to by living in one of our apartments, please call our Benefits Advice Team on 0800 027 2445 or email: colin.cuthbert@mccarthyandstone.co.uk

Do I have to pay the service charge when the apartment becomes vacant?

When an apartment becomes vacant, for instance, if a homeowner passes away or moves into a care home, it is important that the service charge continues to be paid to maintain the efficient provision of services across the development and for the security of the other homeowners.  If a homeowner or their family is experiencing difficulties, we are happy to discuss their situation with them and see what can be done to support them.

How do I request further information?

For any information about McCarthy & Stone or any of our apartments or developments, please call us on 0800 201 4811.