Housing and Property Law Partnership (HPLP) offers services for clients involved in a variety of residential disputes, including service charge disputes. Drawing on our thorough knowledge of property law, we use our expertise to represent either private landlords or leaseholders throughout London area and South East England.
At HPLP, we provide legal advice and representation for landlords or housing associations seeking to recover service charges. We advise them on the proper procedures for:
- Consultation regarding repairs and major works
- Interpretation and construction of leases
- Enforcing their rights in the county courts and in the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal (LVT)
As specialists in our field, we can advise landlords as to their statutory and contractual duties. We also have extensive experience defending against claims against leaseholders. We use our expertise to negotiate solutions or defend our client's rights in the county courts or the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal.
Service Charges and Your Rights
Service charges are one of the main areas of contention between leaseholders and their landlords. Service charges often cover the costs of general repairs, maintenance, insurance, cleaning, lighting, gardening and central heating.
The lease will set out what can and cannot be charged by the landlord and what proportion of the charge is payable by the leaseholder. Generally, the landlord is not obliged to provide any service that is not mentioned in the lease and the tenant does not have to pay where there is no specific obligation to do so in the lease. Disputes often arise over whether a leaseholder has to pay for works of improvement, management costs and legal costs, and the amount of the sums claimed by the landlord.
The landlord can only recover those service charge costs that are reasonable. Section 19(1) of the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 provides statutory protection for residential leaseholders as the landlord may recover service charge costs only if they are reasonably incurred and the services or works are of a reasonable standard.
Leaseholders have a statutory right to obtain a summary of the service charge account from the landlord and to inspect documents relating to the service charge, subject to certain conditions.
Both a landlord and a leaseholder can apply to the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal for the tribunal to decide on the amount payable by way of service charges even if a payment has already been made.
HPLP can assist in making sure you only pay what you should or, alternatively, receive what you are contractually entitled to.
HPLP also represents leaseholders involved in service charge disputes. Our solicitors can help you determine whether:
- You were overcharged for services.
- Your landlord followed proper consultation procedures when seeking payment for services and major works.
- The charges were reasonable in relation to the work rendered/services provided.
We evaluate each case on an individual basis, ensuring that landlords have complied with the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985, the Commonhold and Leasehold Reform Act 2002 and other statutes. Our solicitors then advise you on your options for seeking relief from unfair charges.
If you are unhappy with your current management or property landlord, you may want to consider buying your freehold or obtaining management rights. Our solicitors will guide you throughout the entire process.
Major Works and Consultation
Where a residential landlord intends to carry out major works to a property or enter into a long-term service agreement, he or she must consult with the leaseholders beforehand. If the landlord fails to comply with the consultation requirements, then unless the landlord obtains an order from the Leasehold Valuation Tribunal that consultation can be dispensed with, the amount which the landlord may subsequently recover from a leaseholder is capped at £250 for major works and £100 under a service agreement.
In most cases, the procedure for a private landlord to comply with the consultation requirements is as follows:
- The landlord serves a written notice of intention on the leaseholders.
- The leaseholders respond to the landlord by (1) making observations on the works proposed and (2) nominating contractors from whom the landlord should try to obtain estimates for the proposed works.
- The landlord obtains a minimum of two estimates and at least one estimate should come from one of the leaseholders' nominees.
- The landlord serves on the leaseholders a statement summarising at least two of the estimates, setting out any observations from the leaseholders and their response to the observations.
- The leaseholders have another 30 days to respond to the estimates.
- The landlord is obliged to consider the leaseholders' observations but is otherwise free to enter into a contract for the works if he or she contracts with one of the leaseholders' nominees or the contractor providing the lowest estimate.
- Alternatively, the landlord must within 21 days of entering into a contract with someone else serve notice on the leaseholders stating his or her reasons for awarding the contract, setting out any observations received and his or her response to those observations.
While the process is convoluted, it has to be followed by the landlord to avoid the statutory cap. HPLP can assist landlords in complying with the consultation requirements and advise tenants on whether they need only pay the statutory cap.
Contact Our Firm
At HPLP, we offer competitive prices for landlords and leaseholders involved in service charge disputes. Contact our office to discuss your situation with our dynamic London service charge disputes solicitors.