Power to the tenant
Leaseholders have won important rights: landlords will no longer be able to charge the earth for repairs.
Wednesday 03 September 1997
Tenants have been given the power to challenge work landlords propose to carry out on a block, marking a fundamental change in the approach to this emotionally charged field. Under the old regime, it was difficult to challenge works until they had been completed.
In addition, flat owners are now able to ask the tribunal to appoint a new manager if the present one is not shaping up to his or her position. That could include anything from failing to keep the premises clean, to refusing information or access to details to which leaseholders are legally entitled.
The new procedure involves making an application to a LVT in your area. There are 11 in total, consisting of three members - a lawyer, a valuer and a lay person - and though you are not required to have a solicitor or barrister to represent you, professional advice in this complex area of law could help your case.
Jim McKeever, a partner at Comptons solicitors, says: "Landlords will know if they get dragged into a LVT that they won't be able to recover costs, so they will start negotiating." He adds that before the introduction of these rules and the Housing Act 1996, landlords had little incentive to negotiate because they could threaten court action and forfeiture. Now these threats would be hollow.
So if you suffer from any of the above and you want to explore the LVT option, the first step is to contact the Leasehold Advisory Service or the DoE for a booklet which explains the ins and outs of this whole procedure. They will also give you an application form if you choose to take this course of action.
If your problem is to do with service charges, your application could cover maintenance and repair to the building or services provided such as management, cleaning and building insurance. If the work for services has already been carried out, the tribunal can determine whether the costs were reasonably incurred, whether the works or services are of a reasonable standard or whether an amount payable before costs are incurred is fair. The tribunal can also determine if charges are reasonable for proposed works and services.
Any individual tenant or group of tenants who are paying a variable service charge can make an application. They will need to provide details of the applicant, a copy of the lease, names and addresses of all tenants contributing to the variable service charges, the amount currently being paid and a statement of the issues the tribunal is being asked to address.
Mr McKeever says one area often disputed is redecoration of the premises. He says: "Landlords have to follow a formal procedure for any major repairs costing more than pounds 1,000 or pounds 50 per flat, whichever is the greater. If they don't, in principle they can't charge for that work and this type of situation would be in support of an application to change existing management."
Tenants who want to challenge landlords over their choice of insurer for the dwelling can apply to the tribunal to establish whether the cover provided is unsatisfactory in any respect or whether the premiums are too high. Apart from the basic details, you will be required to provide in this case, the application should contain the premium currently being paid and again include a statement of the issues being disputed.
Tenants taking the above two actions may also want to sack their manager for not sticking to obligations and appoint a new one. The landlord may, for example, be breaching an obligation to do with the management of the building, have demanded or be likely to demand unacceptably high service charges, or have failed to comply with a government-approved code of management practice.
However, this procedure does not apply where the freehold landlord is resident on the premises and the property is a conversion. It does apply where a group of tenants have bought the freehold and formed a management company, as companies cannot be resident. Other landlords this final process does not apply to include local authorities or other public sector bodies and housing associations.
A plus point of this system is that each application will cost a maximum of pounds 500, though this does not include a tenant's own fees if he or she chooses to employ professional advice from a solicitor or surveyor. The tribunal cannot award costs, though it can order a full refund of the fee to that applicant by the other party in the action.
Fees are payable in two stages. The tribunal will send you an invoice for pounds 150 on receipt of the application and before arranging the hearing you will be issued another invoice for the rest of the fee. In the case of the service charge dispute or appointment of a new manager, the hearing fee will be pounds 150 for up to five dwellings, pounds 250 for between six and 10, and pounds 350 for more than 10.
If you are challenging the landlord's insurer, the hearing fee will be a flat pounds 150. The whole fee will be waived for people receiving income support, family credit, a disability working allowance, Jobseeker's allowance or housing benefit.
Peter Haler, chief executive of Lease, warns tenants to apply for a "Section 20c" order, part of the new laws, as a matter of course, to ensure that landlords cannot increase the service charge to pay their costs.
The new system puts pressure on landlords to play a straight game, but it is not a panacea to the basic problem - the very concept of leaseholds itself harks back to feudalism. The Government has promised an overhaul of the system, which is likely to bring it into modern times
Independent Partners; Do you need financial advice on your investments, pension or insurance? Book a free consultation with an independent Financial Adviser at VouchedFor.co.uk
- 1 If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
- 2 Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
- 3 Make your voice heard: Sign The Independent's petition to welcome refugees
- 4 Refugee crisis: Aylan's life was full of fear - in death, he is part of 'humanity washed ashore'
- 5 German police forced to ask public to stop bringing donations for refugees arriving by train
Senior British politicians tell David Cameron: When dead children are being washed up on beaches – it's time to act
Britain to take more refugees as Cameron bows to pressure after more than 200,000 back our campaign
Jeremy Corbyn calls Osama bin Laden's killing a 'tragedy' - but was it taken out of context?
If these extraordinarily powerful images of a dead Syrian child washed up on a beach don't change Europe's attitude to refugees, what will?
If you're not already angry about the refugee crisis, here's a history lesson to remind you why you really should be
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £40000 per annum + OTE + Incentives + Benefits: SThree: Established f...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40/45k + INCENTIVES + BENEFITS: SThree: The su...
£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company was established in...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE 40k: SThree: SThree are a global FTSE 250 busi...
Day In a Page
With four bedrooms, this spacious maisonette in a mid-terrace period-style house in Holland Road is well-maintained and offers high ceilings and period features.
The terraces of this two-bedroom penthouse apartment offer panoramic views that stretch over fifty miles from the cliffs of Beachy Head.
In the heart of the coastal village of Mumbles and moments from the pier, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is set over three floors and retains many original features.
In a sandbanks location, moments from the beach, this three-bedroom apartment has a large open-plan living area and a south-west facing balcony.
This four-bedroom home has an annexe accessed from the side of the house, with potential for improvement and conversion subject to the necessary permissions.
In the heart of the hamlet of Wardley, this five-bedroom period home offers countryside views and a stylish interior, with original features and open fireplaces.
Offering countryside views and landscaped gardens, this three-bedroom Grade II-listed lodge has a spacious conservatory and a large cellar that could serve as a workshop.
Set in approximately 1.5 acres, this four-bedroom home comes with a second, detached property that's currently used as an annexe.
In the hamlet of Newchurch, this former parish church is now a four-bedroom home complete with clock tower and eyrie.
Offering scenic views from a large balcony and sun terrace, this four-bedroom home has a wraparound garden and a heated swimming pool.
Offering views across the Humber and East Yorkshire Wolds from a glass panelled balcony, this four-bedroom barn-style home befits a life of leisure.
This four-bedroom home offers versatile accommodation with annexe potential; features include a hot tub, sauna and Norwegian BBQ hut.
Well-located for schools, colleges and the town centre, this contemporary thatched cottage offers flexible living space with six bedrooms.
Built in 1907, this four-bedroom Edwardian period home has been refurbished by the current owners, retaining many original period features.
Surrounded by landscaped gardens, this five-bedroom home offers living space across three floors.
This lovely country home in Burnham Market is currently run as a popular holiday cottage, with five en suite bedrooms and colourful gardens.
This three-bedroom 17th-century former village bakery is just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
Set on a landscaped plot, this light and airy four-bedroom home comes with a log burner in the lounge, a fitted kitchen and an open-plan ground-floor layout.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Built on a former chapel site, this impressive four-bedroom home boasts balconies, stunning views and contemporary modern living.
This three-bedroom house is situated in a quiet mews and set over three floors. Features include glazed staircases and high ceilings.
A period townhouse set over four floors, this five-bedroom home was built in the 18th Century and retains many original features.
With five bedrooms, this spacious home offers beautiful gardens and modern interiors - set within the popular market town of Bingley.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.